21st century health statistics must be able to identify and meet new information needs as they arise. Knowledge gaps are a moving target, not static. Even with good “distance vision” that sees far into the future, unanticipated population health needs are sure to arise, and health statistics systems will need mechanisms for addressing them. The same is true for newly emerging issues and topics with relevance to health and health care. Examples of contemporary issues are the upsurge in the use of alternative medicine and heightened concerns about adverse effects and medical errors.
In addition to being able to identify new information needs and emerging issues, health statistics must be structured so that new information and new categories of information can be easily incorporated.