birth certificate

Birth Certificate

This piece of paper does more than help you get a driver’s license or passport; it is a window into the health of a population. While only in wide use in the United States for a relatively brief period of history, birth certificates — and other vital records documenting life events such as marriage, divorce and death — shed light on a range of health concerns. For example, U.S. birth records have shown a dramatic decrease in births to teen moms over the past 25 years and documented profound racial and ethnic disparities in birth weight and prematurity. Not all countries keep birth records, a data gap that public health researchers would like to see filled.