Presentation, communication and dissemination of vital statistics
Dissemination and accessibility
The whole purpose of compiling and generating vital statistics must be to see them used and made available to as many users as conceivable. To reach such large varied audiences the agency responsible for disseminating vital statistics must make the data as accessible and understandable as possible. This requires that the data are accompanied by suitable metadata and that they are issued in different formats – for example, electronic files, paper tion and news releases.
Some stakeholders have an interest in the microdata while others are only interested in the compiled data, but at different levels of aggregation and geographies. It is therefore extremely important that the metadata are linked to data items and not only to generated tables. Without appropriate metadata that define the data elements, time period, geographical designation and other dimensions, it becomes hazardous to use the information and the data essentially are only accessible to those who produced them.
The disseminating agency must keep a data dictionary or a centralised metadata repository where all the information about the data is stored. Such dictionaries are also crucial for programmers and database managers to understand where the data items are stored and what users need to know about the data. Lots of data dictionary tools are available on the internet including some that are free and open source such as 24 Data Dictionary Tools.
As a general rule, annual dissemination of the total numbers of births and deaths should happen within 12 months of the closure of the records at the end of the calendar year in question, with dissemination of cause-of-death data occurring within 12–18 months. Some countries are able to produce and disseminate monthly total accounts of births and deaths.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division (2013). Principles and recommendations for a vital statistics system