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NCHS Overview

NCHS Fact Sheet, September 2016

PDF Version (233 KB)



The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) is the nation’s principal health statistics agency, providing data to identify and address health issues. NCHS compiles statistical information to help guide public health and health policy decisions. These health statistics allow us to:

  • Document the health status of the U.S. population and selected subgroups
  • Track the impact of major policy initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act
  • Document access to and use of the health care system
  • Identify disparities in health status and use of health care by race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, other population characteristics, and geographic region
  • Monitor trends in health indicators
  • Support biomedical and health services research
  • Provide data to support public policies and programs, including recent data on opioid overdose deaths


NCHS, a federal statistical agency

Underlying NCHS’ mission and legislative mandate is the concept that the data collected with public funds, or under the umbrella of a public agency, are considered to be a “public good.” The primary considerations for the timely release of NCHS data are:

  • Protection of the confidentiality of respondents
  • Accessibility of resources required to create public-use files and tabulations
  • Data quality, analytic, or data processing issues that may limit the ability to make public-use data or tabulations available

In addition to providing data for public use, the agency works to provide objective, independent analysis and interpretation of the data it collects through reports, data briefs, and other statistical products.


Health indicators

NCHS produces data on a wide range of health indicators, such as:

  • Health insurance coverage and its relationship to access and the use of health care services
  • Prevalence of health conditions such as obesity and overweight, cholesterol, hypertension, and HIV status among the U.S. population
  • Exposure to environmental chemicals
  • Nutrition and physical activity
  • Growth charts to monitor the development of children
  • Patient safety and quality, including adverse effects of medical treatment
  • Injuries and disabilities and their impact on health status and functioning
  • Leading causes of death specific to age, race, ethnicity, and gender groups
  • Infant mortality, stillbirths, life expectancy, and teen births
  • Practice of medicine in the United States, evolution of health information technology, changes in roles and practices of health care providers, and use of resources
  • Changes in the health care delivery system, including emergency department use and capacity; increasing use of prescription drugs; and increasing demand for community-based long-term care.


NCHS data sources

Collaborating with other public and private health partners, NCHS employs a variety of data collection mechanisms to obtain accurate information from multiple sources. This process provides a broad perspective to help us understand the population’s health, influences on health, and health outcomes. Sources of data collection include:

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Patient medical records
  • Personal interviews (in households and by phone)
  • Standardized physical examinations and laboratory tests
  • Facility information

For further information about NCHS and its programs, visit us at