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The United States Vital Statistics System: The Role of State and Local Health Departments

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This paper describes the role of state and local health departments in the registration, processing and analysis of vital events in the United States. It details the major responsibilities of offices of vital statistics and vital records and how vital events that are reported locally become state and national data. Many of the functions are basic to any data collection system, such as ensuring complete, accurate and timely reporting. It is especially challenging in an environment that involves creating legal documents that prove United States citizenship, conducting public health surveillance and protecting national security. This paper also explains the paper-based and automated systems currently in use and how they are evolving into web-based paperless systems that present opportunities for improved data quality and electronic verification and exchange of vital event information.

The paper was prepared by Steven Schwartz, PhD, Registrar and Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Vital Statistics, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in 2008.


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