AGE-ADJUSTED RATE - Rates are a way to express how often an event (for example, a disease) happens in a group of people. However, “crude rates” can sometimes be biased by factors such as age. For example, the rate of some cancers can be very different by age group. Older people are more likely to get most cancers, but other cancers typically affect children. When a rate is statistically modified – or “adjusted” – to eliminate this bias, it is called an “age-adjusted rate.”
AGE SPECIFIC RATE - A rate limited to a particular age group. The numerator is the number of cases or events in that age group; the denominator is the total number of people in that age group in the population of interest.
AMERICAN INDIAN OR ALASKA NATIVE (RACE) - A person descended from any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) who also maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.
ANENCEPHALY - A birth defect that affects the closing of a narrow channel, called the neural tube, which causes the baby to be born without the front part of the brain or a cerebrum (the thinking and coordinating part of the brain).
ASIAN (RACE) - A person descended from any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
ASTHMA - A disease that affects a person’s breathing and may restrict the ability to get oxygen to the lungs. For people with asthma, the inside of their airways can become irritated and inflamed and this may result in wheezing and coughing.
AT-RISK GROUP - A group of people with common characteristics that make them more likely to encounter an exposure or develop a specific disease.
AVERAGE DAILY ADMISSION - The average number of people with a specified health issue (for example, asthma episode or heart attack) who visit an emergency department or are admitted to a hospital in a specific time frame (for example, a month or a year).
BIAS - The result of a systematic error in the conduct or design of a study which leads to conclusions different from the truth.
BIRTH COUNT - Number of live births for a specified period of time and specific geographic area.
BIRTH RATE - Number of live births per 1,000 people. See fertility rate.
BIRTHWEIGHT - An infant's weight at or shortly after birth.
BLACK (RACE) - A person having ancestry in any of the black racial groups from the African continent.
CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) - A colorless, odorless gas that is formed when carbon in fuel is not burned completely. Motor vehicle exhaust contributes about 56 percent of all CO emissions nationwide.
CARCINOGEN - A carcinogen is a substance that is known to cause cancer or promote cancerous tumor growth.
CARCINOGENIC EMISSIONS - A carcinogen is a substance that is known to cause cancer (see definition above). Emissions are compounds released into the air from industrial activity. When emissions have the potential to cause cancer they are called “carcinogenic emissions.”
CENSUS - The count of an entire population. This census usually includes details about individuals’ residence, age, sex, occupation, ethnic group, marital status, birth history, and relationship to head of household (that is, familial status).
CENSUS TRACT - Small statistical subdivisions of a county or equivalent entity. Census tracts are relatively permanent but they occasionally are split or merged due to substantial population growth or decline. Data at the census tract level allows us to detect trends within a county that might not be apparent at the county level. For example, in Milwaukee County, two neighboring census tracts may have very different rates of disease, which would be masked in county-level data but apparent in census tract data. Knowing more specifically where disease rates are higher can allow public health professionals to target interventions to the areas where they are most needed.
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (CDC) - A branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting public health activities in the United States.
CHELATION THERAPY - A treatment that can be used to remove heavy metals (for example, lead) from the body.
CHILDBEARING AGE - Women aged 15-44 years. See also reproductive age.
CLASS - A description of a group where the group members share similar properties, common behaviors, common relationships, or common semantics.
COMMUNITY WATER SYSTEM - A public water system which serves at least 15 service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serves at least 25 year-round residents.
COMPOUND - A word used to label the group of chemical contaminants in the environment. Individual contaminants (compounds) are identified by their specific names.
CONCENTRATION - A measure for the amount of something that is mixed with another material. For example, the amount of ozone that is mixed with other compounds in the air is an example of ozone concentration.
CONFIDENCE INTERVAL - A range of values for a variable of interest (for example, a rate) constructed such that this range has a specified probability of including the true value of the variable. The specified probability is called the confidence level, and the end points of the confidence interval are called the confidence limits. For example, the estimated value of the rate of melanoma in Marathon County from 2001-2005 might be 12.6 cases per 100,000 people. If the 95% confidence interval for this estimate is 10.02 to 15.63 we know that there is less than a 5% chance, statistically, that the true value – that is, the true rate of melanoma for Marathon County – falls outside of this range. Moreover, we know that the best guess within that range, based on the data, is 12.6 cases per 100,000 people.
CONTAMINANT - 1) "A substance that is either present in an environment where it does not belong or is present at levels that might cause harmful effects to humans or the environment (source)." 2) Any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter that has an adverse effect on human health via its presence in air, water, or soil.
CONTAMINANT LEVEL - A measure of how much of a contaminant (see definition above) is present in the environment.
CONTAMINATION - The introduction of harmful or hazardous matter into the environment.
COUNTY POPULATION - Census estimate of the number of people living in a particular county.
CRUDE RATE - The number of cases – or events – divided by the total number of individuals in the population of interest. Rates are typically expressed as a number per unit of population (for example, "per 10,000" or "per 100,000").
DEMOGRAPHIC GROUP - A group of people defined by the characteristics they share. Common demographic groups include: age, sex, and race/ethnicity. Others groups may be classified based on medical, behavioral, and environmental risk factors (for example: diabetics, smokers, and/or farm workers).
DEMOGRAPHIC INFORMATION - The characteristics or classifications used to describe a group of people. Examples include age, sex, race, and smoking status.
EARLY NEONATAL - A period of fetal development that begins at birth and ends at seven completed days after birth.
EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT VISITS - Counts of people that have been admitted to emergency rooms. For the Wisconsin Environmental Public Health Tracking data, specific variable definitions are available here.
ENVIRONMENT - 1) The complex interaction of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival. 2) The aggregate of social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or community (that is, “social environment”).
ENVIRONMENTAL PUBLIC HEALTH INDICATORS - Summary measures that tell us about the status of potential hazards to human health in the environment. Indicators might include a list of potential hazards, summary measures of population exposure to these hazards, facts about the impact these hazards have on population health, and/or a list of actions that are taken to reduce health risk from these exposures.
ENVIRONMENTAL PUBLIC HEALTH TRACKING - Environmental public health tracking is the ongoing collection, integration, analysis, and interpretation of data about environmental hazards, exposure to environmental hazards, and health effects potentially related to exposure to environmental hazards.
EPIDEMIOLOGY - The study of the distribution and determinants of health problems.
ETHNICITY - The concept of an ethnic group forms the connection between culture and society. The term designates a social group that is different from other groups because of specific cultural traits. These traits could include traditional or chosen tastes (for example, in food and/or clothing) as well underlying systems of values and/or political beliefs.
EVALUATION - A process to determine progress towards a goal. In public health, evaluation is a systematic means by which the value of programs, initiatives, or interventions can be determined.
EXPOSURE - Contact with a substance by breathing it, eating it, or having it absorb through the skin. Acute exposures last a short period of time. Chronic exposures last a long period of time.
FERTILITY - The ability to conceive, to become pregnant, and to give birth to a live child.
FERTILITY RATE - Number of births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. See birth rate and childbearing age.
FETAL DEATH (STILLBIRTH) - A fetus that is not alive after leaving the body of its mother. By Wisconsin administrative code DHS 135.02 (8), a stillbirth of at least 20 weeks of gestation or 350 grams must be reported to Wisconsin Vital Records.
GASTROSCHISIS - A birth defect where a portion of an infant's intestines come out of the body through a hole next to the umbilical cord.
GEOCODE - The process of identifying the coordinates (longitude and latitude) of a location. This process is used so data and information can be shown on maps.
GESTATION - The period between conception and birth, usually about 280 days.
GROUNDWATER - Water found beneath the earth's surface that fills pores between materials, such as sand, soil, or gravel.
GROUNDWATER POPULATION - Estimate of the total number of people served by public water systems that use deep wells to extract water from underground. For water systems that use surface and groundwater sources, the population is allocated according to the proportion of groundwater source.
GROUNDWATER POPULATION PERCENT - Estimate of the percent of people served by public water systems that use deep wells to extract water from underground. For water systems that use surface and groundwater sources, the population is allocated according to the proportion of groundwater source.
HAZARD - A generic term for any situation or state of events that poses a threat to human health.
HEALTH - A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
HEALTH EFFECT - Anything that leads to a positive or negative change in a person's physical or mental abilities.
HEART ATTACK - A heart attack is an acute health event in which one of more regions of the heart muscle experience a severe or prolonged decrease in oxygen supply caused by a blocked blood flow to the heart muscle. A heart attack is also called a myocardial infarction (MI).
HIGH-RISK GROUP - A group of people who are more likely than other groups to experience a specific exposure or develop a certain disease.
HISPANIC (ETHNICITY) - A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. Also known as Latino.
HYPOPLASTIC LEFT HEART SYNDROME - An underdeveloped left side of the heart that is present at birth. The underdevelopment causes a decrease in blood flow through the body.
HYPOSPADIAS - A condition that is present at birth (that is, congenital) in which the opening of the urethra is located below its normal location. This condition is caused by incomplete development of the urethra in utero between 8 and 20 weeks of gestation.
INCIDENCE RATE - 1) The number of new cases (that is, incidences) of a disease that develop in a defined population over a period of time. The numerator is the number of new cases of a given disease occurring during the time period. The denominator is the defined population at risk for the disease.
INDICATOR - Numbers or data that are used to describe and/or summarize a broader issue. For example, temperature is used as one indicator of weather.
INFANT - A child from birth to one year old.
INFANT MORTALITY RATE - Number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births during the year.
INFERTILITY - The failure to conceive after one year of regular sexual intercourse without the use of contraception.
INPATIENT HOSPITALIZATIONS - Counts of people who have been admitted to hospitals.
LATE FETAL DEATH - A fetus that is not alive at birth but has gestated at least 28 weeks.
LATINO (ETHNICITY) - A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. Also known as Hispanic.
LAYERS (MAPS) - A thematic set of spatial data described and stored in a geographic database. Layers organize a database or map library by subject matter (for example, counties, roads, and hospitals). Layers can be added or deleted from the visual presentation of a map.
LEAD - A naturally occurring bluish-gray metal found in small amounts in the earth's crust. Lead can be found in all parts of our environment. Lead can also come from human activities including burning fossil fuels, mining, and manufacturing.
LEAD POISONING - For children, lead poisoning is defined as a blood lead level of at least 5 mcg/dL. For adults, it is defined as a blood lead level of at least 25 mcg/dL.
LEGEND (MAPS) - The reference area on a map that lists and explains the colors, symbols, line patterns, shadings, and annotation used on the map. The legend often includes the scale, origin, orientation, and other map information.
LIFETIME CANCER RISK - The percent of people in a defined geography who are exposed to levels of the carcinogen sufficient to increase their risk of contracting cancer above 1 per million of equally exposed people who are exposed continuously (24 hours/day) to the specific concentration over 70 years (an assumed lifetime). This risk is in addition to those cancer cases that would normally occur in an unexposed population of one million people. Note this is different from an annual cancer risk which does not assume a lifetime exposure.
LIVE BIRTH - A fetus that is alive after leaving the body of its mother.
LOW BIRTHWEIGHT - A birth weight of less than 2,500 grams (5 lbs 8 oz).
MEDICAID - The Wisconsin Medicaid program is a state/federal assistance program, administered by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, that provides medical insurance to eligible individuals.
MORBIDITY - Illness, sickness, or any other departure from a state of physiological and/or psychological well-being.
MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION - A myocardial infarction is also called a heart attack. It is an acute health event in which one of more regions of the heart muscle experience a severe or prolonged decrease in oxygen supply because of blocked blood flow to the heart muscle.
NEONATAL - The neonatal period starts at birth and ends at 28 full days after birth.
NITROGEN OXIDES (NOx) - The generic term for a group of highly reactive gases, all of which contain nitrogen and oxygen in varying amounts. Many nitrogen oxides are colorless and odorless. However, one common nitrogen oxide – that is, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – can mix with other particles in the air and appear reddish-brown.
NUMERATOR - The top number in a fraction or ratio.
OZONE (O3) - A gas composed of three oxygen atoms. It is created by a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight. Ozone can be "bad" or "good" depending on its location in the atmosphere:
- "Bad" ozone occurs in the earth's lower atmosphere and is the primary part of smog. Sunlight and hot weather can cause harmful concentrations of ozone in the air. Ozone levels are therefore higher in the summer.
- "Good" ozone occurs naturally in the stratosphere (the highest layer of the atmosphere), approximately 10 to 30 miles above the earth's surface, and forms a layer that protects life on earth from the sun's harmful rays.
PARTICULATE MATTER (PM) - A mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets in the air. Also called “particle pollution.” The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. For example, particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller (PM10) generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.
PERCENT GROUNDWATER POPULATION - The percentage of the population (for example, of a county) served by a groundwater source.
PERCENT LOW BIRTHWEIGHT - The percentage of all live births weighing less than 2500 grams.
PERCENT PREMATURE - The percentage of all live births born before 37 weeks gestation.
PERCENT SINGLETON LOW BIRTHWEIGHT - The percentage of all live births weighing less than 2500 grams that were born individually (that is, not twins, triplets, etc.).
PERCENT SINGLETON PREMATURE - The percentage of all live births born before 37 weeks gestation that were born individually (that is, not as twins, triplets, etc.).
PERCENT SURFACE WATER POPULATION - The percentage of the total population (for example, of a county) served by a surface water source (for example, lake, river or stream).
PERCENTILE - A way to group data points on a similar scale. To create a percentile, the whole group of data points is divided into 100 smaller categories of equal size. For example, if there are 200 data points each category will have 2 data points in it. Percentiles give information about where data points sit compared to others. For example if a data point is at the 95th percentile we know that 95% of all data points are below it and that the remaining 5% are above it.
PERINATAL PERIOD - The perinatal period starts when the fetus has completed 28 weeks of gestation and ends seven full days after birth.
POLLUTANT - A substance introduced into the environment that negatively affects human health.
POST-NEONATAL - The post-neonatal period begins at 8 days after birth and ends 364 full days after birth.
POLYCYCLIC AROMATIC HYDROCARBONS (PAHs) - A group of chemicals created after the burning coal, oil, gas or garbage when the burning is not complete.
POPULATION - The total number of people in a certain geographic area or in a specific group.
POPULATION SERVED - A drinking water quality measure that estimates the total number of people who get water from a public water supply within a particular area (for example, a county).
PERCENT POISONING PREVALENCE - The percentage of children under six years old poisoned by lead (that is, with a blood lead level over 5mcg/dL) in a given area and period of time.
PREMATURE - A baby is considered to be premature if it is born before completing 37 weeks of gestation.
PRETERM BIRTH - A birth that happens before 37 full weeks of gestation.
PREVALENCE - The number or proportion of cases, events (for example, occurrence of a disease), or conditions in a given population.
PREVALENCE RATE - A measure of the total number of people (old and new cases) in a population who have a specific health problem at a specified point in time. Prevalence rates are usually used for chronic conditions such as diabetes.
PREVENTION - Stopping health problems before they occur. For example, one can prevent lung cancer by quitting smoking or mitigating radon in the home.
PROBABILITY - The chance that a given event will occur, expressed as a percentage.
PUBLIC WATER USE INDEX (PWI) - The percentage of a given population (for example, of a county) served by public water systems using Census 2000 data. Note: some water systems (for example, those in Milwaukee County) serve populations of neighboring counties. PWI is therefore a very rough estimate.
PUBLIC WATER SYSTEM - A system that provides piped water for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or regularly serves at least 25 individuals in the past 60 days.
QUANTILES - The division of data points into intervals or categories. Percentiles (see definition above) are a specific form of quantile where the division of points is equal to 100. Any range of divisions can be used. For example, if there are five equal categories then you have “quintiles” (see definition below).
QUINTILES - Dividing a given set of data points into five equal categories. When quintiles are used 20% of the data points fall into each category.
RACE - Groupings of people based on shared ancestry and anthropological concepts. Race groupings are not biological designations but were instead developed for the collection of standardized data. These groupings are used by state and federal agencies for record keeping, collection, and presentation of data including data from federal surveys, census data, and data necessary to meet legal requirements (for example, the implementation of civil rights laws).
RATE - An expression of the frequency with which an event (for example, the onset of a disease) occurs in a defined population.
RATIO - The relationship, as a quantity, of one part to the whole. Ratios are typically expressed as fractions with the numerator (that is, top number) representing the “part” and the denominator (that is, the bottom number) representing the “whole.”
RANDOM SAMPLE - A specific kind of sample taken from a larger population where everyone in the population has an equal chance of being selected. Random samples have statistical properties that allow them to make better estimates of the whole population than samples selected in other ways.
REACTIVE ORGANIC GAS - Also referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), these gases are precursors to the formation of ozone (O3) (see definition above). High levels of ozone can be related to negative health effects in humans.
RELATIVE STANDARD ERROR (RSE) OF A RATE - The estimated standard deviation of a rate based on its numerator and denominator together. RSE is commonly calculated to determine the confidence interval (see definition above) of a rate. It can also be used as a measure of statistical stability where events are rare. Higher standard errors suggest less stable estimates.
REPRODUCTIVE AGE - Traditionally defined as 15 to 44 years of age. See also childbearing age.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH - Refers to the conditions that affect the functioning of the male and female reproductive systems during all stages of life.
REPRODUCTIVE OUTCOMES - Disorders that occur as a result of poor reproductive health. Some reproductive outcomes include reduced fertility/infertility, impotence, menstrual disorders, birth defects, fetal growth restriction, low birth weight, preterm birth, and developmental disorders.
RISK - The likelihood or possibility of an outcome such as injury, disease, or death. For example, a risk level of 1 in 1,000,000 indicates that one person out of one million people will experience the outcome.
SEX RATIO – The ratio of males to females at birth. Calculated as number of male births divided by number of female births, and multiplied by 1,000.
SINGLETON BIRTH - Pregnancy resulting in the birth of one child (i.e., not twins, triplets, or other multiples).
SPINA BIFIDA - A condition that affects the spine and is usually visible at birth. It is a type of neural tube defect. The backbone that protects the spinal cord does not form and close as it should, which can result in damage to the spinal cord and nerves.
SULFUR DIOXIDE (SO2) - One compound of the family of sulfur oxide gases (SOx). These gases are formed when fuel containing sulfur – such as coal and oil – is burned, when gasoline is extracted from oil, and/or when metals are extracted from ore. SO2 dissolves in water vapor to form acid. In this form it interacts with other gases and particles in the air to form sulfates and other products that can be detrimental to human health.
SURFACE WATER - Bodies of water that form and remain above ground, such as lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, bays, and oceans.
SURFACE WATER POPULATION - Estimate of the population served by public water systems that have surface water sources (for example, lakes, rivers, and streams). For water systems that use both surface and ground water sources, the population is allocated according to the proportion of surface water source.
SURFACE WATER POPULATION PERCENT - The estimated percentage of the population served by public water systems that have surface water sources such as lakes, rivers, and streams.
SURVEILLANCE - A dynamic process in which data on health and disease in a population are collected, analyzed, and reported.
TERM BIRTH - Birth at or later than 37 full weeks of gestation.
TETRALOGY OF FALLOT - A problem with the heart’s structure that is present at birth. This defect changes the normal flow of blood through the heart.
TOTAL BIRTH COUNT - The total number of live births to Wisconsin residents within a particular time interval and/or geographic area.
TOTAL CHILDREN TESTED FOR LEAD POISONING - Number of children who had a capillary or venous blood lead test. Only one test per child per year is used. Results from the first test that is greater than or equal to 5 mcg/dL is used if there is at least one test greater than or equal to 5 mcg/dL during the year. Otherwise, the first test during the year is used. If a capillary test was followed by a venous test within 3 months, the venous test is used.
TOTAL CHILDREN POISONED BY LEAD - The number of children under six years old who were poisoned by lead (that is, have a blood lead level over 5 mcg/dL).
TOTAL FERTILITY RATE - The average number of children a woman is predicted to give birth to during her lifetime, given the age-specific birth rates observed in a given year. The value is given per 1,000 women. For example, the total fertility rate in Wisconsin in 2009 was 1,877 children per 1,000 women. This means that in 2009, the expected number of children each Wisconsin woman would give birth to in her life time was just under 2 (that is, 1.87).
TRANSPOSITION OF THE GREAT ARTERIES - A heart condition that is present at birth and is often called a congenital heart defect. It occurs when the two main arteries going out of the heart, the pulmonary artery and the aorta, are switched in position, or transposed.
VERY LOW BIRTH WEIGHT - A birthweight of less than 1,500 grams (3 lbs, 4 oz).
WELL MONITORING - Measuring well water quality using on-site instruments or laboratory methods.
WHITE (RACE) - A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
WOMEN, INFANTS, AND CHILDREN (WIC) PROGRAM - A program to promote and maintain the health and well-being of nutritionally at-risk pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children. WIC provides supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition, and breastfeeding information, and referral to other health and nutrition services.
ZIP (ZONE IMPROVEMENT PLAN) CODES - A 5-digit code that identifies a specific geographic area for mail delivery. ZIP Codes can represent an area within a state, an area that crosses state boundaries (which is rare), or a single building or company that has very high mail volume.
The following resources were referenced in the creation of this glossary:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Reproductive Health: Glossary
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations, and Acronyms
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Region 5 Superfund Glossary
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