Understanding population characteristics is essential for public health practices such as program planning, epidemiological studies, and emergency preparedness. Knowing a population’s characteristics can help public health professionals determine possible effects of health problems or environmental conditions on disease trends over time and across locations. These data can show which areas or population groups are likely to be

  • at-risk for acute and chronic illnesses
  • exposed to different chemicals in the environment
  • affected by a public health emergency

Population characteristics commonly included in the data presentations on the Iowa Public Health Tracking portal include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Ethnicity

Age and Gender

Age and gender are important factors to consider when describing the effects of disease or illness on a community and society. Many studies have shown that these factors can indicate how many people have or will get a specific disease.

Race and Ethnicity

Race and ethnicity may be related to the number of new and existing cases of a particular disease. For example, the number of new cases of specific cancers varies greatly among racial groups. More new cases of breast cancer, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma occur among white women; more new cases of colon and pancreatic cancer occur among black women; more new cases of cervical cancer occur among Hispanic women; and more new cases of stomach cancer occur among Asian or Pacific Islander women.