Shaping a Vision for 21st Century Health Statistics. Usefulness at different levels of aggregation


Statistical systems need to provide information in sufficient detail to support decision-making. While many existing statistical systems provide rich resources for analysis and action at the national level and for the population as a whole, increasing levels of detail¾both geographic and demographic¾are increasingly critical.

The identification of health problems, needs, and interventions is increasingly a local function. Data from the national and state level often provide only a rough outline of real problems faced in individual communities, and cannot provide data to evaluate interventions that may be unique to a given area.

Similarly, health problems, health care access, and health outcomes can be quite different for different racial and ethnic subpopulations. Health officials need data in fine-enough detail to understand health differentials and design effective interventions.

The potential costs of meeting all data needs¾for example, for each of multiple racial and ethnic subgroups in each local area¾are daunting, and it is unlikely that all needs will be met. An important challenge for the health statistics system will be to develop an overall information framework that takes these and other detailed needs into account, while recognizing the expense and technical difficulty in obtaining such data.