Since 1900, the United States has tracked and monitored not just those are being born, but also those who are passing on. Keeping mortality data has been an important part of public health since the early 1930s when the Great Depression began, and rationing and the ability to support population numbers were issues. Although it is controlled by the government, how secure are someone’s birth and death certificates? And although it’s obvious why you would want a birth certificate, why is a Manitoba death certificate necessary?
Why is a death certificate necessary?
Although the Internal Revenue Service might disagree because they use birth certificates to track who owes money, the death certificate might be the most important document that both the government and an individual have. It is the only documentation existing to prove that someone isn’t alive anymore. Once a death certificate is issued, if a person is receiving Social Security benefits, those benefits stop. It is also the only document that cuts off things like pensions, and is used to settle someone’s financial affairs.
Death certificates began in the 1900s, but the primary reason was to understand and monitor how society was changing. The wealth of information that is now collected on death certificates, like the cause of death and factors like ethnicity, were not collected until much later. As the generations started to evolve, the information reported through the death certificate has also changed, in order to track relevant trends, diseases and other factors that indicate changes in the population, which are important both for public health reasons and for overall health policy changes.
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that things like AIDS and HIV were added to the death certificate. But death certificates remain the only way to track disease incidence and to see how disease etiology happens, and which populations are most at risk. Those types of classifications are highly important to create public policy to identify and to implement programs to save and help physicians curb illness.
There are other things about a death certificate that help government agencies implement policy changes and to target at-risk populations, like someone’s level of education and whether a woman is pregnant at the time of her death. These are all things that might seem unimportant, but they are highly relevant to developing government health programs and other agency intervention programs like domestic abuse protection.
Do all states use the same form?
States are allowed some variation from the standard form, but most use the standard US Standard Death Certificate that is issued by the Centers for Disease Control or the National Center For Health Statistics, which was revised in 2003. Many states also follow the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases in an attempt to see health trends on a larger and more global scale.
What is the most critical part of a death certificate?
The standard information that is collected on a death certificate is race, education, age, and the place of death. But the most valuable information remains the cause of death. The problem is that there isn’t always a set way of stating the manner of death or a classification that fits into a one-size-fits-all. For instance, if someone has HIV but dies of pneumonia, the cause of death might be listed as pneumonia; without having the pre-existing factor listed as HIV, then the tracking of disease is limited.
Where is the data collected?
After the death certificate is issued, it goes directly to the National Center for Health Statistics to be filed and analyzed. The NCHS uses the death certificate to compile health statistics and to report mortality rates to many governmental agencies who need the information to develop policies. The NCHS has been responsible for collecting death certificates since 1979, but the CDC is responsible for sharing the information so that it is more relevant and useful for creating public health policies.
Although it may not seem as important as a birth certificate, a death certificate is essential for government agencies who are responsible for making public health policy, to curb disease, and to identify various health trends that can be both anticipated and addressed through disease control and prevention.