Gathering Health Data: Tools & Examples

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

Health data is collected through different methods and is used to identify trends. In this lesson, we will learn about how health data is gathered and how it is used.

Collecting Health Data

You have probably seen many statistics on the prevalence of health conditions, such as 29.1 million people in the United States had diabetes as of 2014, or the fact that every year, 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. With over 300 million people in the United States, how do researchers collect this information?

There are several different ways to collect health information at different levels- district, state, and national. We will look at some of these methods next.

Morbidity and Mortality Rates

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that presents data on diseases that have been reported to them.

Morbidity is the measure of sickness in an area. Did you know that there was only one case of anthrax in the last five years and that was in 2011? Botulism is more prevalent; there have been 119 cases so far in 2016. Over the last five years, the average of weekly cases of botulism is three. How about listeriosis? So far in 2016 there are already 408 cases reported, with an average of 25 cases reported every week!

Mortality is defined as the measure of deaths. In the Mountain reporting area of the United States, there were 950 total deaths in the week ending September 10, 2016. In Denver, Colorado there were 34 deaths, and 21 of those deaths were people older than 65.

There are several diseases that are mandated to be reported at the district level. Some of the examples were listed above, such as anthrax, and all cancer cases have to be reported. All deaths also have to be recorded at district levels. This information is combined at the state level to identify health trends and issues for individual states. It is then combined nationally for further statistical reporting and trend identification. But this isn't the only way to collect data.


The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is a telephone survey that is done in the United States to gather health related information. They gather information through surveys in all 50 states and complete more than 400,000 interviews every year.

The surveys ask questions to gather information on health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services.

Example graph showing disease prevalence in men versus women

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