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Gerstein Science Information Centre

Health Statistics & Data

Sources of statistical health data as well as tips and help in finding and using the data.

Statistics & Data in the Published Literature

Many statistical figures and data are reported in the literature as the product of scholarly research. If you don't find the data you need from the data producers mentioned on this guide, you can also search the literature for relevant research results on your topic.

For more information on searching scholarly literature in the health sciences, consult our research guide on Searching the Literature.

Article Databases

Medline Tips

Using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

The following is an alphabetical list of statistics-related MeSH terms that can be combined with main MeSH terms. For example, to find statistics on the number of cases of breast cancer, combine the main MeSH term "breast neoplasms" with the statistics-related MeSH term “prevalence.”

Fatal outcome
Death resulting from the presence of a disease in an individual, as shown by a single case report or a limited number of patients. This should be differentiated from DEATH, the physiological cessation of life and from MORTALITY, an epidemiological or statistical concept.

Health care costs
The actual costs of providing services related to the delivery of health care, including the costs of procedures, therapies, and medications. It is differentiated from HEALTH EXPENDITURES, which refers to the amount of money paid for the services, and from fees, which refers to the amount charged.

Hospital mortality
A vital statistic measuring or recording the rate of death from any cause in hospitalized populations.

The number of new cases of a given disease or event during a given period in a specified population.

Infant mortality
Perinatal, neonatal, and infant deaths in a given population.

Maternal mortality
Maternal deaths resulting from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in a given population.

The proportion of patients with a particular disease during a given year per given unit of population.

All deaths reported in a given population.

Population characteristics
Qualities and characterization of various types of populations within a social or geographic group, with emphasis on demography, health status, and socioeconomic factors.

The total number of cases of a given disease in a specified population at a designated time.

The science and art of collecting, summarizing, and analyzing data that are subject to random variation.

Survival analysis
The total number of cases of a given disease in a specified population at a designated time. It is differentiated from INCIDENCE, which refers to the number of new cases in the population at a given time.

Sensitivity and specificity
Measures for assessing the results of diagnostic and screening tests. Sensitivity represents the proportion of truly diseased persons in a screened population who are identified as being diseased by the test. It is a measure of the probability of correctly diagnosing a condition. Specificity is the proportion of truly nondiseased persons who are so identified by the screening test. It is a measure of the probability of correctly identifying a nondiseased person. (From Last, Dictionary of Epidemiology, 2d ed) *Note: when using this term which contains the word “and”, you must place it in quotes as shown here or use an ampersand: &.

Vital statistics
Used for general articles concerning statistics of births, deaths, marriages, etc.


Using Subheadings

Many articles are indexed using a MeSH term and one or more subheadings. Searching using subheadings can help to hone in on a specific aspect of a topic. For example, to find statistics on the use of obstetrical nurses, search for "Obstetrical nursing/ut" where ut=utilization.

The following is a list of the most useful subheadings to be used for finding statistical discussions of health topics:

Statistics & Numerical Data
Used with non-disease headings for the expression of numerical values which describe particular sets or groups of data. Year of entry: 1989.

Used for the economic aspects of any subject, as well as for all aspects of financial management. Includes the raising or providing of funds. Includes finances, financing, funding, costs, fees, salaries, financial management, etc. Year of entry: 1978.

Used with diseases for the distribution of disease, the factors which cause disease, and the attributes of disease in defined populations. Includes incidence, frequency, prevalence, endemic and epidemic outbreaks. Also includes surveys and estimates of morbidity in geographic areas and in specified populations. Excludes mortality (use "mortality"). Year of entry: 1989.

Used with diseases for causative agents including microorganisms and includes environmental and social factors and personal habits as contributing factors. It includes pathogenesis. Year of entry: 1966.

Used with human and veterinary diseases for mortality statistics. For deaths resulting from various procedures statistically but for a death resulting in a specific case, use FATAL OUTCOME, not /mortality. Year of entry: 1967.

Supply & Distribution
Used for the quantitative availability and distribution of material, equipment, health services, and facilities. Includes "availability". Year of entry: 1968.

Used with equipment, facilities, programs, services, and health personnel for discussions, usually with data, of how much they are used. Includes discussions of overuse and underuse. Not used for use of procedures in treating or diagnosing patients. Year of entry: 1968.