Show Me the Numbers: Finding Health Statistics

Where do you go when you need to find statistics related to your medical research?  Google right?  Not a bad place to start of course, but in addition to giving you some Google tips, I’ll be pointing out tips on how to quickly find health statistics using MedlinePlus.

Let’s say we’re looking for statistics on lung cancer survival rate.  Here are a few ways to narrow your results in Google.

Restrict your search to specific types of websites, such as gov, edu, or org  To do so, type site:gov , for example, following your search terms in the Google search box, to find only information from government sites.  By using these restrictions, we’re hoping to find information from more reliable sources.


Click on the Show search tools link in the left margin of your results page after you’ve run your reach.  You can then narrow your results to a specific timespan (ie, the past year).  Further below, on the left menu, it’s also very handy to select the Sites with images link to find tables and graphs related to the information you’re tracking.

MedlinePlus is my favorite free go-to resource on the web for health information.  This site is maintained by the National Institutes of Health and the National Library of Medicine.  There are two key ways I search it to find health statistics.

 Run a search on the general topic you are looking for (ie, lung cancer).  View the first result, which is usually from the National Library of Medicine.  This page will take you to an excellent overview of the topic.  In the Reference Shelf section of the table on the lower part of the page look for the Statistics link.

Run a search on your topic with the words statistics in it (ie, lung cancer survival rate statistics).  In the left menu of the results page, look for the What are the Key Statistics and the Facts|Figure links to narrow your results.

Key take away point to these tips:

Always look at the left or right margins of a search results page to look for options on how to narrow your large set of results to a manageable and relevant set.

About Josephine

Josephine left UCSF in spring of 2012. Previously, she had been Education & Information Consultant, Clinical Sciences
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