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P.R. Demographic Registry complies with order to publish mortality data

The Demographic Registry has begun to comply with a Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics Board order, Resolution No. 2018-03, that seeks the publishing a dataset containing preliminary information on registered deaths.

The information will be updated weekly on the open data platform managed by PRIS. The Board had ordered this disclosure as a “measure of transparency,” following the concerns that were raised last year regarding the deaths that occurred after the passing of Hurricanes Irma and María over Puerto Rico.

The published dataset contains information for each registered death, occurring from January 1, 2017 to the most recent week. It includes information on the causes of death, the month of death, place of residence, place of birth, type of death, sex, marital status, age, level of education, occupation, industry, veteran status, among others.

It can be downloaded from the new PRIS open data platform, which also allows users to preview the data and to develop applications that connect to the dataset automatically by using an Application Programming Interface (API).

Although the Resolution mandates that this dataset be updated daily, the Health Department and PRIS agreed to update the dataset on a weekly basis, as long as there is no declaration of emergency.

“Mortality statistics from the Health Department take a long time to prepare and publish. The newly published data help to perceive mortality in the short-run, without the extensive protocol required by official statistics,” said PRIS Executive Director Mario Marazzi.

“In this way, we demonstrate the commitment of our government with transparency, and we are also better prepared to respond more quickly to the mortality that could occur after the next hurricane,” he said.

“The data will be available even if there is no regular electric power service in Puerto Rico. This disclosure literally saves lives. It is the least we can do to recognize and honor the memory of the thousands of people who died on account of Hurricane Maria,” Marazzi added.

If an emergency is declared in the future, the Demographic Registry will be updating the data on a daily basis,  to facilitate the analysis of this data that can save lives, officials from both agencies confirmed.

This protocol should be included in the Health Department’s future Emergency Plan.

“Now, more than ever, the importance of the accessibility of statistical data to determine trends, during specific moments or phenomena, which result in more assertive responses to emergencies, has become evident,” said Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez-Mercado.

“The certainty and transparency of this type of information could make the difference between life and death. Both the Department of Health and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s administration have always promoted free access to information, more so in times when we seek to perfect each aspect of our contingency plans for times of emergencies,” he said.

“This initiative, which links the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics and the Demographic Registry, points in that direction. We are pleased it has materialized and that there have been steps taken in the process of data collection, for the benefit of Puerto Rican citizens,” Rodríguez-Mercado said.

The announcement opens the way for the closing of a lawsuit filed by PRIS in May of this year to compel the Health Department to provide this information on a recurring basis in to comply with the Resolution. The PRIS has the authority to sue and issue subpoenas to obtain from any government agency the information or data it deems necessary for statistical purposes.

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