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Reporting Public Health Data

CDC Reports Accidental Death Data and STD Information with SAS

In many ways, the United States entrusts the health and safety of its citizens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Responsible for providing information to enhance health decisions, the CDC develops disease prevention and control programs, environmental health policies and health promotion and education activities. By using SAS software, several CDC departments are making public health data more accessible to the people most directly affected.

Accidental Death and Injury Data Available Online
The CDC began studying home and recreational injuries in the early 1970s and violence prevention in 1983. From these early activities grew a national program to reduce injury, disability and death, and the costs associated with injuries outside the workplace. In June 1992, the CDC established the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). The NCIPC works to reduce morbidity, disability, mortality and the costs associated with injuries.

Within the NCIPC, the Office of Statistics and Programming receives hundreds of requests per year for information on injury-related mortality data. Public health researchers, journalists, legislators and others request many varied and complex data results. Until recently, the NCIPC's static Web site provided basic information, but the site lacked interactivity and customization. So staff members spent most of their time processing information requests.

Then Steve James, an NCIPC Computer Specialist, developed an interactive, Web-based application using SAS software. He says the decision to use SAS was undisputed. "We would have had to have a very good reason to use something other than SAS," said James. The new Web-based application, known as WISQARS, is pronounced "whiskers" and stands for Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. The interactive system provides injury-related mortality data useful for research and for making informed public health decisions.

Extending SAS' powerful data retrieval and analysis functionality to everyone, WISQARS lets users create customized reports from a user-friendly interface. Report results range from injury-related death rates to the leading causes of accidental death per state and per age range.

"WISQARS saves time for our staff, and it also gives more people access to this public health data," says James. Since the site went live, requests made directly to NCIPC analysts have dropped significantly. And the number of reports generated directly on the site continues to increase. The WISQARS application processes as many as 8,000 reports per month – more than NCIPC analysts could have processed in years.

Accurate, Up-to-Date STD Data
The Sexually Transmitted Disease Center, another department within the CDC, has used SAS to develop a data warehouse called STDInfo. This program, maintained by the Statistics and Data Management Branch (SDMB), contains information on all cases of sexually transmitted diseases reported to the CDC since 1981. Updated on a weekly basis, the information is used to heighten awareness and examine the severity of STDs in each state and implement different outreach programs that help promote intervention.

Receiving reports of 25,000 cases per week, the SDMB team quickly realized the need for a more efficient and faster means to provide information to business users. The system was initially developed to publish a desktop application for basic report generation, weekly surveillance and time-sensitive research studies. Subsequently, the team has also developed the intranet application STDNet, which is the Web-based version of STDInfo. This simple, interactive browser interface allows flexible and easy data access for the end users.

According to team members, return on investment has been realized in terms of resource allocations, time reduction and data quality. Since giving business users access to this information, the center's programmers have spent less time processing information requests and more time building new and better systems. "SAS has been a great tool for helping SDMB to eliminate steps in the daily data management and unitization process. We are continually getting requests for reports. With STDNet, people – even those without any SAS knowledge – can access information on their own," says Clanton. Most importantly, business users now have more time to analyze the data from their desktops and make wiser decisions on how to help promote the nation's health.

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US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Business Issue:
Provide credible information to enhance health decisions, and ensure that the best health and safety information is accessible to the communities and people who need it every day 
SAS provides quick, easy access to public health data

SAS has been a great tool for helping SDMB to eliminate steps in the daily data management and unitization process ... With STDNet, people – even those without any SAS knowledge – can access information on their own. 

Sharon Clanton

CDC developer

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