Health experts are poring over the recently released Kansas Annual Summary of Vital Statistics to determine the state's strong and weak points in public health.
A number cruncher's dream publication, the 159-page report shows death rates in Douglas County and Lawrence were among the state's lowest over the past five years.
It shows teen pregnancies across Kansas were lower last year than at any time in the past 10 years. At the same time, the out-of-wedlock birth rate in Kansas is following the national trend by continuing to rise. Such births comprised 31.4 percent of all live births that occurred to Kansas residents in 2003. And for the first time in Kansas history there were no maternal deaths among Kansas residents.
Heart disease continues to be the No. 1 cause of noninjury deaths among Kansans, followed by cancer.
What does it all mean? Health experts study the data to find trends or problems, said Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
"It's a valuable resource for our agency as we study health policy, education and outreach programs," she said.
Health experts also might use the data to compare Kansas' injury mortality rates by age groups, said Charles Hunt, KDHE epidemiologist.
"We find that as we change ages the cause of injury deaths shifts," Hunt said.
A rate for deaths caused by falls among the elderly of certain age groups could be determined and then compared to other states to see whether statistics are similar.
"If we find our rates in Kansas are higher than other states, then we'd want to find out why and develop programs to address these issues," Hunt said.
By far the most requests KDHE receives for statistical information concerns births and deaths, Watson said.
But not all vital statistics are about births, deaths and diseases. Data also are found on marriages and marriage dissolutions. In 2003 there were 18,722 marriages in Kansas, while there were 8,644 marriage dissolutions. Statistics on dissolutions might be misleading, however, because local district courts supply them and KDHE can't verify reporting compliance by all district courts.