Finding and interpreting health data can be very challenging. Many factors go into gathering, analyzing, and reporting data. Some things to think about as you look for data:
- Who might gather this data? Does it need to be reported? Might a government agency or non-profit organization gather? Where else could one look if the data doesn't have to be reported? For example, hypertension is diagnosed in the primary care office, and they are not required to report this information. So instead, the CDC asks people if they have ever been told they have high blood pressure. This isn't an incidence or prevalence per se, but it is the closest we can get to this information for the U.S.
- It takes time and resources to gather and analyze health data - there can be a lag between collection and availability. You will want to find the most up-to-date information, but do not be surprised if that data is around 5-10 years old. - if you are not sure you were successful in finding the most recent data, check in with a librarian.
- Be sure you understand the numbers you are given - are you being shown a raw number, a rate (a measure or frequency measured against another - e.g., a ratio or percentage), an average, a median - while you cannot compare numbers measured differently directly to each other, you can still compare them if you express the differences.
Potential starting points:
Additionally, you can search Google for additional information, e.g., "myocardial infarction" prevalence.
Then when looking through the results, think about the credibility and possible biases of the sources and trade up to better sources where you can. For example, look at the hosting websites. In the above search, as I look through the results, I see one comes from Medscape, a source I recommend using for the Microbiology Poster Projects, the NIH website, the CDC, and the National Heart Association - all likely accurate primary sources (the groups that gather the data) of heart-related health data. If you find health data in other sources, you can look at the references to see if you can get back to the primary source of the data.