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Nursing Research Guide

Guidance for Nurses and Allied Health Researchers

Training Resource

Statistical Literacy

How and what people count and measure, how the results are assembled, compared, presented, and communicated are all based on choices and reflect the perspectives and priorities of those people. Accepting statistical data at face value without considering the context leads to errors of interpretation. The ability to correctly interpret statistics and the ability to think critically about context and the causal or correlational relationship of statistics are both key to statistical literacy. 

Here are three quick tips that can help you spot problems- 

  • Conscientious data providers tell you about where they got their information and what the weakness are. If you don't see that- find another source.
  • Pay close attention to context (simple rates vs. percentages, for example). Think about what, or who, is missing.
  • Consider confounding factors- influences that complicate statistics which may or may not be obvious.

Here is an article on this topic- Data (Mis)representation and COVID-19: Leveraging Misleading Data Visualizations For Developing Statistical Literacy Across Grades 6–16 by Engledowl & Weiland, 2021, from the Journal of Statistics & Data Science Education.

See also:

Researching Community and Population Health

Population health can focus on a variety of health outcomes and indicators, patterns of health determinants, and even policies and interventions. The primary focus of the sources provided here is statistical data regarding health indicators and outcomes and some health determinants. 

The sources on this page were selected for being current and well-maintained, reliable, and transparent. Accurate, high-quality data collection and processing can be time consuming so you may find the most current information is a couple years old- this is normal. On the other hand, some parts of data processing and presentation evolve quickly, which means there are changes in web pages and web addresses. If you encounter broken links please email me, hnewcomer@olympic.edu

The National Library of Medicine provides this handy chart to help you track where to Find Health Statistics on the Web.

Global & National Population Health Resources

For global and national level data and statistics, as well as comparisons, here are some useful websites- 



Comparison Points

Sometimes comparing your own area with another provides useful insight. We can compare the US to other countries, Washington State to other states, and Kitsap County to other counties. Thurston County in Washington is slightly more populous than Kitsap County, and Yakima County is slightly less populous than Kitsap County. If you are looking for a comparison between similarly-sized, county-based populations in Washington State, you can use these counties. 

Of course, it may be that the size of the county's population is less important for your purposes than some other factor- access to health care, or urban vs. rural land use. In that case, you should consider selecting other areas of comparisons. If you are trying to draw useful comparison, you can compare your target area internationally, nationally, across state lines, etc. However, it is important to be sure your comparison is logical and appropriate.

Kitsap County Population Health Resources

Washington State Population Health Resources