June 2019 Vital Records News

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Vital Records News

June 2019

Law change removes barriers, promotes equity

Effective July 1, Minnesota American Indian tribes will have the same access to vital records as local, state, and federal agencies. The change gives tribal health departments, and tribal child support programs, the same access to important birth data that community health boards and county public health agencies already have. This data helps public health professionals identify at-risk families and mothers so that infants and children receive the services and support they need to be healthy.

Unequal access to vital records data made it more difficult for tribal entities to serve at-risk families and address health disparities in critical issues such as infant mortality.

The law classifies birth information in different ways (Minnesota Statutes, section 144.225). Information about the birth and a mother’s or infant’s health is classified as private. Demographic information, such as parent and infant names, dates of birth, addresses, and other non-medical information is public if the mother is married, but confidential if the mother is unmarried.

Roughly one third of Minnesota births are to unmarried mothers. However, significant variations exist. The top five counties with the highest percentage of births to unmarried mothers last year were Beltrami, Cass, Lake of the Woods, and Mille Lacs, all higher than 50% and Mahnomen with more than 75%.

Restricting access to vital records data disadvantaged tribes. Changing the law means that tribes now have information critical to carrying out family home visits and other maternal and child health activities. It also means that tribal child support programs have the authority to receive demographic information (such as the child’s name) from confidential birth records for child support and paternity establishment purposes. Ensuring that custodial parents have the financial resources to meet their children’s needs is a critical component of family stability.

The law also adds tribal entities to the list of local, state or federal government agencies that may request certified birth and death certificates necessary to perform their authorized duties and helps assure uniform service delivery from all vital records offices in Minnesota.

For more information about tribal access to vital records, please contact the Office of Vital Records Help Desk at 651-201-5970 or health.vitalrecords@state.mn.us.

Air pollution contributes to early deaths and hospitalizations

Air pollution in Minnesota plays a role in up to 4,000 deaths, 500 hospitalizations, and 800 emergency-room visits annually. A new report from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Life and Breath: How Air Pollution Affects Health in Minnesota, says that air pollution is not just a city problem, and that overall pollution levels are higher in the southern part of the state.

Groups most affected by air pollution include older adults, children with uncontrolled asthma, and people in poverty. The report notes that while air quality in Minnesota currently meets federal standards, even low and moderate levels of air pollution (that you cannot always see) can contribute to serious illnesses and early death. The two most common air pollutants in Minnesota are fine particle pollution (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone. The findings in the report provide a sense of the magnitude of the health risks related to air pollution. Read more about Health impacts of air pollution on the Minnesota Department of Health website.

Basic training for new birth registrars

If you have been entering birth records for any length of time, you know that the process is more complex than it seems. Excellent birth registration is a multi-step process that benefits families, facilities, communities and the nation. Come to the Birth Registration 101 class to find out why birth records are so vitally important; learn about responsibilities related to vital event registration; and pick up some best-practice tips to make the process more accurate and easier.

Birth Registration 101 is a classroom experience for new birth registrars. Incorporating lecture, discussion, case studies, and hands-on learning in Minnesota Registration & Certification (MR&C), instructors from the Office of Vital Records and the Department of Human Services Child Support Division help learners understand Minnesota’s laws governing birth registration, navigate sometimes complex situations, and how to meet the diverse needs of new moms and families.

Attend an upcoming Birth Registration 101:

  • July 22 at the Mayo Clinic Health System – Mankato Hospital from 8:00 a.m. to noon
  • November 19 at the Orville Freeman Building in St. Paul from 8:00 a.m. to noon

Classes are free, but registration is required. Create an account in the MDH Learning Center to register for Birth Registration 101. Registered participants will receive exact location, parking and other logistical information by email a week before each class.

All new birth registrars should complete both Birth Registration 101 and the online course Applying Best Practices for Reporting Medical and Health Information on Birth Certificates within six months of signing the MR&C Birth Registrar and Facility User Agreement.

Medical certifiers providing cause of death

Death records contain information about decedents, the facts of the death, and the cause and manner of death. Minnesota law authorizes physicians, physician assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses to “certify deaths”. These licensed professionals provide their best medical opinion for the cause of death and any factors that may have contributed to the death. The opinion is based on what the certifier knows about the decedent and access to the decedent's medical records.

Minnesota certifiers are more diverse and faster at completing death records than they were three years ago.

Number of Minnesota Deaths in 2016, 2017 and 2018
Changes in medical certifiers providing cause of deathtimeliness increased

*2018 data is not final; ** PAs and APRNs permitted to provide cause of death after the legislature changed Minnesota Rules, part 4601.1800 in May of 2017; ***Physician includes MD, Medical Examiner, Coroner, MBBS, and DO

National Vital Statistics

Vital Statistics Rapid Release

The National Center for Health Statistics released Births: Provisional Data for 2018 (PDF) on May 15, 2019, the earliest release of national annual data on record. The report shows historical declines in the number and rate of births, another 7% drop in teen childbearing, a small decline in the cesarean delivery rate, and an increase in preterm births.

National Death Index (NDI)

The National Death Index (NDI) is a centralized database of death record information on file in state vital statistics offices. Working with these state offices, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) established the NDI as a resource to aid epidemiologists and other health and medical investigators with their mortality ascertainment activities. After NCHS receives and processes 90% or more of a year’s death records, the records are available for NDI Routine searches. For more information see National Death Index Early Release Pilot Program.

Contact the Office of Vital Records