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Physicians, Vital Statistics, and Disease Reporting

Richard A. Goodman, MD, MPH; Ruth L. Berkelman, MD
JAMA. 1987;258(3):379-381. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400030095040.
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Why should physicians know how to complete death certificates? What diseases must be reported to health departments? While these questions may not titillate all readers of The Journal, the fact is that mortality and morbidity data provided by clinical practitioners serve as the foundation of essential databases used for planning, implementing, and evaluating health programs at all levels in the United States. As such, the role played by the practitioner in reporting health data has far-reaching effects on our nation's health programs.

The medical literature has increasingly focused attention on the implications for accuracy in completing death certificates and other forms that are essential to meet the health information needs of the United States. For example, articles in The Journal and other publications have recently addressed topics such as uses of multiple-cause-of-death data, reporting of congenital malformations, the imperative of documenting tobacco use—related mortality, surveillance for infectious diseases, and the


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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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