Congenital Malformations Registry - 1996 Report

Appendix 3

Birth Certificate Matching

Birth certificate matching is a vital part of registry activities. This serves to verify the individual's identity and distinguish him or her from all others and provides additional information about the baby and the mother. The matching is used to determine maternal residence at birth and to verify race and birthweight. Matched cases provide a basis to calculate population-based rates. It is critical to match a high percentage of cases to calculate rates accurately and to conduct meaningful surveillance.

Birth certificate matching is carried out by a computer program that compares the birth certificate tape for a given year to the CMR file of cases who were born in that year. The files are compared on several variables until (1) a match is found, (2) a possible match is found or (3) the list is exhausted without finding a match.

Possible matches are reviewed by CMR staff and a decision made about whether there is a match. Unmatched cases are checked further to see if data items have been correctly keyed and all possible aliases have been identified. An online search of the birth certificate files is done and certificates on file at the Vital Records office are reviewed to find unmatched cases. However, review of actual certificates is possible only for children born outside New York City since New York City birth certificates are not on file in Albany. New York City maintains its own vital records files.

The matching process is repeated until about 95% of reported cases are matched. This is a compromise between completeness and efficiency. After about 90% of cases are matched, each additional percentage requires greater and greater effort. The ability to review a copy of the birth certificate greatly enhances the chance of making a match. Matching is more complete for cases born in the state outside New York City than for New York City cases.