Birth Outcomes: Measures and Data
What birth outcomes are tracked and why?The Washington Tracking Network provides measures for infant mortality, term low birth weight, very low birth weight, preterm birth, fertility,
and sex ratio. See below for more information on each of these topics. Many other measures and trends are published
in the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Data Report.
The Perinatal Indicators Report for Washington Residents
provides the most recent birth outcomes statistics, but is intended for use by healthcare professionals rather than the general public, and contains specialized content.
Some statistics may be more difficult to interpret.
Many sectors, including public health, use birth outcome measures to track the state of reproductive health across populations.
Measures like the rate of low birth weight or the rate of infant mortality can be used to examine disparities in maternal health, evaluate intervention strategies, or project long term impact of health care access policies.
Hypotheses about the role of environmental contaminants in poor birth outcomes have received increasing attention. While results from research have been inconsistent in some areas, there is growing evidence linking some environmental hazard exposures to specific adverse birth outcomes. For other exposures, studies have been inconclusive or shown little or no effect. WTN maintains a list of recent publications that discuss measures of maternal and child health and the scientific evidence concerning the impact of environmental hazards on birth outcomes.
Improved tracking of birth outcomes in the context of environmental public health will help identify patterns in exposures and parallel patterns in birth outcomes that will refine current hypotheses and inform future study.
Ultimately, tracking these data should illuminate where public health action is most needed to prevent harmful exposures and support reproductive health.
How are birth outcomes tracked?In Washington, most data used to generate birth outcomes indicators are collected through the Vital Registration System at the Department of Health (DOH) Center for Health Statistics. Both birth certificates and linked infant birth-death certificate data are part of this system.
Each State Registrar reports death and birth data to CDC National Center for Health Statistics, which maintains files on all births and deaths in the United States and its territories. Data are standardized among all jurisdictions, and are generally available one year later than state data. National Vital Statistics Reports provide official birth outcomes statistics.
Other sources of data related to birth outcomes come from the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Data Report, the DOH Center for Health Statistics and Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Research and Data Analysis Division. Data on maternal behavioral risk factors are tracked by DOH in the state Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS).
What is being done to prevent adverse birth outcomes?In Washington, DOH and DSHS work with a variety of partners in the state to carry out programs that work to prevent low birth weight, preterm birth, and promote healthy pregnancies, including:
These services work to promote healthy birth outcomes by supporting prenatal medical care access, smoking cessation, alcohol and drug use prevention, appropriate birth spacing, healthy weight gain, and addressing family violence.
- State Title X Family Planning Program: family planning and women’s health services
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): breastfeeding support, nutritious foods, education and referrals to preventive services
- First Steps Program: prenatal medical care, Maternity Support Services, Infant Case Management
- Take Charge Program: family planning services for low income men and women
Other DOH activities include data surveillance, perinatal quality improvement projects, and development and dissemination of preconception healthy living messages.
More Information on Specific Birth Outcomes