August 2018 Vital Records News

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Vital Records News

August 2018

Birth Record Data and the WIC Program

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and World Breastfeeding Week is held August 1-7 each year.

“Given the importance of breastfeeding on the health of mothers and children, it is critical that we take action to support breastfeeding. Women who choose to breastfeed face numerous barriers—only through the support of family, communities, clinicians, healthcare systems, and employers will we be able to make breastfeeding the easy choice.” Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH U.S. Surgeon General

At the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (MN WIC) and the Office of Vital Records (OVR) work together toward the ultimate goal of improving the public's health. The WIC program promotes and supports breastfeeding to improve maternal and infant health and strives to reduce disparities by using birth record and other data to design culturally appropriate services tailored to participants’ specific needs.

In the WIC Program, data on race/ethnicity is self-reported by participants, based on standard race/ethnicity categories mandated by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB): Hispanic/non-Hispanic: American Indian, White, Black, Asian, and/or Native Hawai’ian/Pacific Islander. These standard categories are not sufficient to understand the communities served by WIC. In 2015, some local WIC agencies began asking Black and Asian participants to name a cultural identity in addition to race. In addition, MN WIC started linking birth record data with WIC data to obtain more information on participants’ cultural identity and nativity (U.S.-born or foreign-born).

Having health information by cultural identity on indicators such as anemia, breastfeeding, weight status and birth outcomes has enabled MN WIC to better identify high-risk populations so that WIC services can be tailored to the needs of WIC participants. Evaluating WIC participant data by cultural identity enriches our understanding of differing health outcomes and allows us to target our services more effectively.

For example, local WIC agencies observed less breastfeeding among U.S.-born African-American women than among African immigrant women. Acquiring data on cultural identity has allowed WIC to quantify these differences in breastfeeding behaviors in different communities.

MN WIC breastfeeding initiation among Black participants graph

In Hennepin County, nearly half of black mothers identify with an African culture. The high breastfeeding rates among these mothers was masking the fact that many African-American mothers were struggling with breastfeeding. While WIC staff observed some differences, quantifying this disparity was the first step towards addressing it.  WIC has increased its number of breastfeeding peer counselors from local African–American communities. With the differentiated data, WIC will be able to track progress in these communities over time.

To improve breastfeeding rates, WIC uses birth record and WIC data to

  • Identify priority groups and contributing factors
  • Understand cultural practices that may put families at risk, such as beliefs about pumped milk or religious fasting which can impact milk supply
  • Create targeted education for families on infant feeding practices and long-term effects of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding.
breastfeeding initiation among Asian participants

Another example of cultural disparities in breastfeeding is the widely differing practices in various Asian communities. MN WIC Hmong participants (the largest group of Asian participants in WIC), were historically grouped together with all other Asian participants, including Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, KaRen, and Bhutanese-Nepali. Each of these cultures has its own traditions and feeding practices.

Higher breastfeeding rates in other Asian groups masked low rates in the Hmong community. Utilization of birth record data has allowed MN WIC to differentiate between these groups.

In many communities, acculturation leads to lower breastfeeding rates over time. Birth record data allowed WIC to see that second-generation Hmong have higher rates of breastfeeding initiation than new Hmong immigrants do, but that their rates are still lower than other Asian cultural groups.

The linking of WIC and birth record data provides a fuller picture of breastfeeding behaviors. The birth record includes information on birthing facility and breastfeeding initiation, while the WIC data provides information on breastfeeding duration. WIC has collected some data on the use of formula during the hospital stay, but other than that, there is currently no good source of information on exclusive breastfeeding.

The availability of this data, and measuring trends over time, will help identify these and other communities in need of education and support.

For more information, see Breastfeeding in Minnesota’s WIC Program Fact Sheet 2018

Additional resources available for mothers and professionals:

The Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives (OSHII)  provides information to support mothers and the professionals who care for them.

The Minnesota Breastfeeding Coalition works to create an environment in Minnesota where breastfeeding is recognized and supported as vital to the health and development of children and families.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines and recommendations about breastfeeding. 

OVR welcomes new Statewide System & Application Support Supervisor

picture of new supervisor - Bill

In February this year, the Office of Vital Records reorganized into four units that focus on operational functions: Security and Records, the Registrar’s Office, Registration and Fulfillment and Statewide System & Application Support (SSAS). Bill Devine joined OVR as the supervisor of the SSAS unit in late July 2018.

OVR staff who work on data quality, performance, education and awareness, MR&C technical support, and constituent and partner support including the OVR Customer Service Desk are part of the SSAS unit.

The unit is focusing on the education and support of vital records stakeholders so that customers can obtain the documents they need, and accurate data is reported to other states and the National Center for Health Statistics. Vital records stakeholders include local county registrars and staff, morticians and staff, medical certifiers, other health care providers, hospitals and birth facilities.

Bill commented: “My goal is to support the team as much as possible so that they can succeed in their roles. I want to create a positive, respectful environment that allows each team member to gain strength and expertise. I want to find or create the tools that the team needs to support the team’s goals going forward.”  

When he is not at work, Bill likes working in his yard, volunteering for pit bull rescue groups, supporting organizations in the LGBTQ community, and spending time with Nigel, his rescued American Bulldog/American Pit Bull mix.

Before coming to the Office of Vital Records, Bill Devine worked in the health insurance industry for 12 years with roles in compliance, credentialing, audit and regulatory review. He also worked in the tech industry at Lawson Software and, before that, in film and TV production.

NAPHSIS Identity and Security Conference logo

The National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), the professional membership organization for vital records and vital statistics programs, is hosting its first-ever Identity & Security Conference in Washington D.C., November 15 and 16, 2018.

The pace of technological change has quickened. This conference will provide an opportunity for a national conversation on the rapidly changing intersection of identity and security, as related to vital records. Participants will learn about new trends in fraud prevention, secure data exchange services, biometrics, and identity management, among other topics.

The Office of Vital Records encourages managers, supervisors, and staff at county vital records offices to consider the event. “You are the frontline securing Minnesota records and identities,” said Molly Crawford, State Registrar. “This event is aimed at vital records professionals who issue certificates and check identification. This is a great professional development opportunity that puts you in touch with others across the country and in the industry who face the same challenges as you do.”

For program tracks, registration and hotel information, see 2018 Identity & Security Conference.

Minnesota VitalSigns

A new issue of Minnesota VitalSigns, published in July 2018 by the Minnesota Center for Health Statistics,  features “Source of Payment Information from the Minnesota Birth Certificate (PDF)”.

Vital record paper

AmeriTech, Inc. and Northstar, the vital record paper vendors for the Minnesota Department of Health, recently implemented a new online ordering process for county vital records offices to order security paper. Online ordering is convenient for vital records offices and Northstar.

Please destroy any old ‘vital record paper order forms’ you may have on your computer and use the online form.

If you are the employee authorized to order vital record paper for your office, visit Security Paper on the Information for Local Issuance Offices website. Go to the heading “How does my office place an order for security paper?” Place your order at State of Minnesota Vital Record Order form ( ) and click Submit. The employee who places the order (or the email address entered on the order) and the Office of Vital Records receive email confirmation of the order from Northstar. Your office will receive an invoice. Payment is by check only – no credit cards.

If you have questions about this change, contact  or .

Use the best phone number for optimal service

When contacting Office of Vital Records (OVR), are you calling the number designated specifically for your needs? We want our vital records partners to receive the best service possible, so we have phone numbers just for you!

OVR understands that time is of the essence when registering vital events, when service depends on quick answers, and when you need help with the electronic vital records system, Minnesota Registration and Certification (MR&C). The OVR Help Desk is open Monday through Friday (except for state holidays) from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If we do happen to miss an incoming call, please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as we can. Although the Help Desk receives most of OVR’s incoming calls, representatives give your needs priority. For optimal service, please use the two telephone numbers listed below. These numbers are not for public use.

County vital records professionals 651‑201‑5998

Call 651-201-5998 with questions about issuing certificates, policies, document control number problems, or for ‘data entry error corrections’ when a customer is waiting for a certificate or record.

MR&C Support 651‑201‑5993

To become an MR&C user, for help registering births, deaths or fetal deaths, or to report problems with MR&C, call 651-201-5993. This number is primarily for medical certifiers, designated staff, birth registrars and funeral home personnel.

OVR has a public telephone number specifically for constituents and general customer service. Please ask the people you serve to call 651‑201‑5970 if they have questions about vital records.

We appreciate and support all the work that our partners do. Choosing the right phone number helps us provide the best service to you when you need it. See Office of Vital Records Contacts and individual webpages for professionals for more information and resources.

MR&C password management upgrade

On Thursday, August 9, OVR released an upgrade to the password management system used with MR&C. We expect this upgrade to resolve the issues some users faced in May when OVR launched the original password management system.

Most regular MR&C users – about 90% – were able to update their passwords successfully in May. Ten percent of users found that the link emailed to them did not work due to security settings on their computers or networks. Settings in email systems or browser applications caused problems for other users.

To avoid these problems in the future, follow the steps below. Depending on your network security, your IT support staff may need to make these changes.

Make sure you get MR&C emails

Add to the Safe Senders list in your email settings.

If you use Outlook:

Go to Home > Junk down arrow > Junk E-mail Options > Safe Senders tab > Add > type ‘’ > OK > OK.

Internet Explorer ‘Compatibility View’

Some users reported seeing black boxes on the password set up webpage. If you run MR&C in Internet Explorer:

Go to Tools > Compatibility View settings. If ‘’ appears as a website you have added to Compatibility View, click on it, then click Remove > Close.