Director's Corner: The Value of Collaborations
One of the more gratifying aspects of working at NCHS is the extraordinary opportunity to collaborate with researchers across the government. This is well illustrated by the release of two important reports.
The first is America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2012. As I say in the press release, the findings in this report, drawn from many data systems across the federal spectrum, allow us to track key progress in the fight against many major public health threats, such as meningitis (which, as I write this, is a top news story). The second is Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being, which provides a broad description of areas of well-being that are improving for older Americans, and those that are not.
Both reports are the result of exceptional interagency collaborative ventures - The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, and the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. These consortia comprise multiple federal agencies – 11 in the child and family forum, 15 in the aging forum. Fifteen agencies all collaborating together may seem like a lot, but to us it’s business as usual.
I have heard it said that NCHS has more collaborators than any other agency our size. We list a number of our partnerships and collaborations on our website (along with links to the two reports I mentioned), but those are just the tip of the collaborative iceberg. For example, we actively partner with the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), whose approval is required for access to, and use of, our extensive national vital records-based data sets. And within the Center, every survey and vital statistics system is a product of collaboration.
Over the years, we have developed a number of global collaborations, spanning a wide array of health care and statistical topics. We have bilateral relationships with Canada, Russia, and Mexico; collaborations with international organizations such as United Nations and the World Health Organization; multi-country collaborations on topics ranging from air pollution, automating mortality statistics, and indigenous health measurement; and international programs devoted to civil registration and vital statistics.
This issue of Inside NCHS features articles on several significant collaborations. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, which has been around as long as NCHS itself, is the epitome of statistical collaboration, working with more than 30 federal agencies. Eighteen separate federal agencies participate along with us in Healthy People 2020. And our interactive collaboration with the National Library of Medicine has helped us re-envision how we will present our data now and in the future, putting us at vanguard of technology and health statistics.
Our collaborations allow us to combine technical, statistical, and financial resources to accomplish things that we can’t do alone. (About one-third of NHANES funding, for example, comes from our collaborators.) Fortunately, our community of statisticians and public health professionals embraces collaboration as an integral part of fulfilling our various missions. As we look ahead to a new year, let's hope the spirit of collaboration and cooperation extends to everyone involved in the vital work of public health.