vital statistics

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William Farr (1807—1883) statistician and epidemiologist


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The word “statistics” derives from “state,” and vital statistics are the data on “vital events,” that is, births, deaths, and civil activities that relate to births and deaths, namely marriage and divorce. Vital statistics are compiled by public authorities at the national, regional, and sometimes local level, and in most nations are routinely published in annual reports. There is an overlapping area belonging both to vital statistics and demography and another large overlap with epidemiology. Indeed, William Farr (1807–1883), a founding father of vital statistics, was also an innovator in the emergence of epidemiology as a rigorous scientific method of studying disease distribution. One of his aphorisms was “Death is a fact. All else is inference.” Farr was a master of the art of inference from mortality statistics. Vital statistics provide essential information in public health, by identifying problems and measures of progress or lack of progress in dealing with these problems.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.

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