Data Request FAQ

Data Request FAQ

What are the changes to vital records data files?

Many requests for vital records data currently require a data sharing agreement (DSA) before data can be received. This now applies to death data.

  • Starting January 1, 2021, a new vital records law authorizes the release of:
    • Birth and fetal death record data with direct identifiers for research purposes with approval of the Washington State Institutional Review Board (WSIRB)
    • Birth and fetal death record data with direct identifiers to government agencies and Tribal governments for non-research public health work by signing a data sharing agreement
    • Birth and fetal death data with indirect identifiers by signing a data sharing agreement
    • Death data by signing a data sharing agreement

There will also be a change in fees for data files, analysis, and data requests that is being determined in rulemaking. A schedule of fees will be released on our website when rules are adopted. For more information about the Vital Records – Data Release Rulemaking or to join the Interested Parties list to receive notifications about the rulemaking process, visit the Vital Records Rule-Making Activities webpage.

What is a data sharing agreement (DSA)?

A DSA documents the conditions under which the Department of Health shares data with outside organizations. By signing the DSA, the recipient(s) of the data agrees to certain terms and conditions to ensure confidentiality and prevent unauthorized use or access. Data may not be disclosed, linked with other information, or used to attempt to identify or contact individuals in the file unless approved by the Department and outlined in the DSA.

A DSA is also known as a data use agreement.

How long does it take to process the data sharing agreement (DSA)?

On average, a DSA can take 3 weeks to process.

Normal turnaround times are delayed as Department of Health staff are helping support the COVID-19 response.

How long is my data sharing agreement (DSA) valid for?

Department of Health DSAs do not exceed 5 years. Center for Health Statistics reserves the right to limit data usage to your purpose need.

Verification of the contact information and the purpose of the DSA is reviewed yearly.

What do I do if I'm doing research?

WSIRB approval is only needed for Birth, Fetal Death, Infant Death, and CHARS datasets.

If your purpose is for research, to re-identify, contact individuals, redistribute or link to other data you will need approval from the Washington State Institutional Review Board (WSIRB).

Visit the WSIRB website for more information and to submit an application.

Exceptions may be made for government agencies conducting public health work.

What is the turnaround time to receive data files?

Data files are sent within 5 business days after confirmation of receipt of payment. For mail in orders this can take on average 3 weeks from the date the order is postmarked.

How do I receive the data file(s)?

You will access and download your files from the Secure File Transfer (SFT) website as instructed in your notification email.

Do I receive a notification when my data file(s) is available?

Yes, you will receive notification that your requested files are available for download and login information from when your files are uploaded to the Secure File Transfer (SFT) portal.

You will have two weeks to download your data file(s) from SFT. If you do not download the data file(s) within two weeks, you will need to submit a new order and payment.

I want to learn about COVID deaths in my area. Where can I get data on this?

Visit the Washington Department of Health COVID dashboards on our website.

How do I order data?

You must have a completed data sharing agreement (DSA) for the data type you want to order.

New Customers without a DSA: Start a new request for a DSA (Word)

Existing Customers with an active DSA: Place your data order. Once a DSA is in place, you can submit an order online.

When will new data files be released?

Preliminary quarterly files are released by the 10th of the month following the end of each quarter. Annual release dates vary. To receive notification of when new data files will be released, please sign up for email notification of file availability and updates: CHARS Data Users, Vital Statistics Data, and BRFSS Data Users.

Do I need special software to use the data files?

The data files are record level. Working with these data files requires use of spreadsheets, database management, or statistical software that are not provided.

What do the different fields in the files mean?

Please see our data dictionaries and layouts for variables etc.

What data resources are available online?

There are data visualization dashboards for Death and Birth, CHARS Public Use files, and data tables for Death by Topic or Year, Birth by Topic or Year, Marriage by Topic or Year and Divorce by Topic or Year, Infant Death by Topic or Year, and Fetal Death by Topic or Year available on our website.

Sign up for email notifications

Sign up for email notification for notification of data file availability and updates.
Our office has these topics: CHARS Data Users, Vital Statistics Data, and BRFSS Data Users.