One of the most popular features on our website and social media is the annual list of the top 100 baby names in Arizona. The list is created from our Bureau of Vital Records, which registers and issues birth certificates for all the babies born each year. While the list is a fun use of the information we collect every year, the other data provided with the baby’s name helps Arizona and other public health departments around the country to develop effective public health programs.

Our public health priorities are determined by what will have the biggest impact to improve the health and wellness of everyone in our state. This can only be determined with data. We collect and use health data from hundreds of sources—including vital records such as birth and death certificates—to learn about the needs of our state and to develop successful public health programs.

We also share our birth certificate data with the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Sharing data does not mean we are sharing any protected health information for public use such as names, addresses, or any other personal information about individuals. NCHS uses the data to publish a national report that helps us gauge the progress of public health interventions. For example, we know the birth rate for teenagers aged 15 to 19 declined 10 percent in 2013 from 2012. This is a historic low for the nation, which shows us that our intervention and education programs are working. This is just one examples of how valuable this data is to public health.

Gathering birth certificate data is a protected, complex system that includes information from dozens of hospitals on a daily basis around the state. The system has improved dramatically over the years, including switching from a paper system to a web-based electronic system that allows for birth certificates to be available as soon as they are registered. While you enjoying the list of the top baby names and checking to see if your new baby is on the list, we are working with our partners behind the scenes to make Arizona a healthier state.