For Immediate Release
November 16, 2011

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

Kansas Marks 100 Years of Vital Statistics

Topeka –This year marks the 100th anniversary of the state’s civil registration system known as Kansas Vital Statistics. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is observing this occasion by sharing the enclosed documents: the 100-year anniversary fact sheet and the 1911-2011 historical summary.

The Kansas legislature passed a law in 1911 mandating the collection of births and deaths occurring in the state. Late in 1911, the new Division of Vital Statistics began the registration, compilation and preservation of birth and death certificates. Marriage records were added in 1913 and divorces in 1951.

The early years of Kansas vital statistics involved the collection of records through a system of local registrars, who frequently were the city clerks. The first state registrar, W.J.V. Deacon, appointed 478 local registrars, one for each incorporated city. Deacon wrote at the time, “For probably three hundred years, civilization has tried to devise some means of getting a complete and perfect record of deaths.”

The major reasons for recording deaths were: the tracking of demographics of Kansas, legal purposes, and what Deacon described as the “Sanitary value, which teaches where the plague spots are and gives opportunity for the installation of preventive measures.”  Data from vital records remain a foundation of public health statistics today and are used to identify, assess and improve the health of Kansans.

“Establishing the age of persons being sent to prison was given as a reason in 1911 for birth certificates, along with inheritance, insurance and other documentary purposes,” said Robert Moser, M.D., Secretary of KDHE and State Health Officer.  “Even today, vital records are an essential component of the nation’s effort to maintain identification security and prevent fraud.”

What has changed in one hundred years of tracking vital records? In 1911, the three leading causes of death were heart disease, tuberculosis and kidney disease. One hundred years later, the three leading causes are chronic diseases: cancer, heart disease and chronic lower respiratory disease. Communicable diseases also remain a public health concern, as evidenced by pneumonia and influenza consistently ranking among the top 10 leading causes of death.

Great progress has been made in reducing infant deaths. One hundred years ago, there were about 3,000 infant deaths. In 2010, there were 253. Kansans are also living longer. In 1911, the average age of death was 47 years compared with 74 today.

Collection of vital records has changed also. As automation became more prominent, local registration ended in favor of registration of the records from hospitals and funeral homes directly to KDHE. Today’s system is a Web-based electronic one, enabling faster and more efficient and accurate electronic filing and issuance of vital records.  Rapid reporting enhances the ability to identify public health issues and implement preventive measures.

Approximately 12 million vital events have been registered in Kansas during the past 100 years.  Today, the Office of Vital Statistics registers more than 100,000 vital events and issues approximately 365,000 copies of vital records certificates each year.

Enclosed Documents:
100-Year Anniversary Vital Statistics Fact Sheet |
1911-2011 Vital Statistics Historical Summary