Geocoding Capacity of Birth Defects Surveillance Programs: Results From the National Birth Defects Prevention Network Geocoding Survey

J Registry Manag. Spring 2010;37(1):22-6.


A Web-based survey focusing on geocoding of birth defects data was developed and administrated to gain an understanding of the capacity of state birth defects programs to geocode maternal residence and to identify barriers to geocoding birth defects data. The survey consisted of 21 questions related to geocoding of maternal residence, type of software used, barriers to geocoding, and data linkage. In August 2007, an e-mail with a Web link to the survey was sent to all state birth defects program contacts in the United States, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requesting they complete the online survey. By October 2007, 39 (74%) out of 53 birth defects program contacts completed the survey. Although nearly all birth defects programs collect maternal residential data, many are not currently geocoding that data. Results indicated that 97% of the programs that completed the survey reported they collected data on maternal residence, 53% of which reported that the birth defects surveillance data were geocoded to the street address level using maternal residential address at delivery. Twenty six percent of the programs that do not currently geocode the data identified "Software and address reference file are not available" as the most significant barrier to geocoding; another 16% chose "Lack of funding" as the most significant barrier to geocoding. Since geocoding is an important component of spatial analyses used to detect potential clusters of birth defects, leveraging resources to overcome the barriers that prevent programs from geocoding is important.

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Analysis
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / prevention & control
  • Data Collection
  • Forms and Records Control / methods
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • State Government
  • United States / epidemiology