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Health Statistics: Getting Started

Recommended Background Reading


With gratitude to The Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences/UAB Libraries for usage of their extensive content. 

The good news:

  • The U.S. Government collects and makes freely available many valuable statistics and data sets.
  • Many public-use data files are available for purchase from the National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Some government sites offer tools for finding data.
  • States vary in the amount of data they provide, but national statistics often have a state, and sometimes a county and metropolitan area, component.


  • Be aware that data may not have been collected on your subject.
  • Data is not be available for very recent years. It takes time to collect, analyze data and publish it.
  • Local data continue to present challenges.
  • Although abundant data is freely available on the web from government or education sites, some data may not be free. 
  • Private statistics organizations may charge for hard-to-find data collected through private surveys.
  • Consider the limitations of your data.
  • Data is only as reliable as the methods used to collect them and those who collected them. Therefore, some data may be of varying quality.
  • Certain methods of collecting data, such as telephone surveys, may have inherent limitations.​

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