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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.

Health Statistics Guide

Welcome to the Health Statistics & Data Guide!


Finding relevant health statistics and data is a challenging task. To help you with this process, we have compiled some print and online resources that will be useful for finding data on a wide variety of health topics.

Health statistics and data include vital statistics, mortality, disease incidence and distribution, and data on health care professionals, health care utilization, costs, and services. The field of epidemiology makes use of health statistics to study the occurrence, patterns and causes of diseases in a population.

For further assistance, please contact AskGerstein or the Map & Data Library.

statistics chart

Data, microdata, and statistics

Data “Factual information...used as a basis for reasoning, discussion or calculation” (Merriam-Webster)
  • A collection of individual facts (observations)
  • Each row in the dataset represents an individual (case)
  • Each column represents an observed characteristic (variable)
  • Produced from microdata
  • The results of calculations - counts, totals, averages, percentages
  • When collected in a table, sometimes referred to as "aggregate data"

Administrative vs social survey data

Administrative data

  • Information collected by government in the course of its regular activities
  • Not necessarily collected with research needs in mind
  • Access is often restricted, to protect the privacy of Canadians

Social survey data

  • Information collected through surveys to learn about the Canadian population
  • Collected to support research and policy-making
  • Self-reported data 
  • Some public access, some restricted access

Mapping: geospatial data

Geospatial data is data that contains information about a physical location that can be represented numerically in a coordinate system. Geospatial data are often stored in specialized file formats, for example: Shapefile, Geodatabase, or GeoPackage.

Geospatial data is often used in conjunction with health or demographic data. For example, you might find a table of data for each neighbourhood within a particular city. If you can find a geospatial data file representing neighbourhood boundaries, then you can join the two files together in order to map you data by neighbourhood.

This guide has a section on finding geospatial data.

Assessing Health Information Sources

Not all data sources are created equal. This guide recommends some high-quality data sources, but you'll also find other statistics and data on websites when you search Google. It is important to be able to critically evaluate the quality of the information you find. For an interactive tutorial on assessing the quality of health information found on the Web, view the tutorial Evaluating Internet Health Information from the National Library of Medicine.

international websites