A Computer System for Coding Occupation

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BackgroundOccupation information is widely used in epidemiologic studies and is collected on most death certificates and many birth certificates in the United States. Coding the massive amount of occupation information collected has been a challenge.MethodsA simple word-matching computer program to code occupation entries from vital records was developed. The accuracy of the program was evaluated by comparing its output to codes assigned by human coders.ResultsIn routine use in the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), the computer system codes 96-97% of the occupation entries on birth and death records. It assigned the correct code on 89% (95% confidence interval (87%, 91%)) of the records it coded.ConclusionsThe occupation-coding program is both efficient and accurate and can simplify the process of coding occupation entries from vital records. The system is adaptable and can be modified to use occupation classifications other than the one used by DOH.

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