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Michigan State University

MSU Program in Public Health: Looking for Data?

General guide for resources useful to the MSU Program in Public Health.

Public Health Data FAQ

Public Health is a data-rich field, and there are many data sources for it. Here is a brief users' guide to help ease you into the exciting world of public health data.

Who collects public health data? Most public health data is collected by governments or NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations).  They use it to track the health of their communities and citizens. Governments and NGOs will often will be the only places to  collect information about populations. The positive aspect of this is that much of their data is freely available on the web.

When do I go to journals? Journal articles tend to focus on small subsets of groups with specific conditions or behaviors.  Journal articles are less about whole populations and large data sets and more about mechanisms, treatment, programs, etc.  PubMed, CINAHL, and Global Health are the major databases you will want to search,

What is this ICD-10? Its the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision It is a way of creating a thesaurus for health conditions, a code to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to naming conventions for disease and causes of mortality and morbidity.  Use it to locate causes of mortality and morbidity in many data resources.

It's not there. Data is reliant on someone collecting it and measuring specific factors.  It is common to have a reasonable research  question where no one has ever collected the data necessary to find the answer. Some things are simply not tracked, and other factors are rare enough that data on them may be suppressed to protect individuals' identities.

Is this the most recent there is?  There can be quite a lag time between researchers collecting the data and that data being made publicly available.  Also, not all potential sources of data are measured annually or even regularly.  It is not uncommon to have the most recent data on a topic be several years old.

Where can I find more information on finding health data and statistics? MSU Libraries has a guide with more information. Check out our Health Data and Statistics guide

Health Sciences Librarian

Chana Kraus-Friedberg's picture
Chana Kraus-Friedberg
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing, MI 48824
Michigan State University