In recent years, real-time surveillance of data has become an important feature in public health preparedness and response. Surveillance systems for emergency room visits, over-the-counter drugs, and 911 calls have all been developed to detect potential acts of terrorism as well as every day outbreaks. Causes of death from death certificates provide important indicators of the health of a community. A typical death certificate will have the causes of death reported by physicians, entered by public health staff, and then coded to International Classification of Disease standards. The turnaround from the date of death to the date of coding can be weeks to months later. For real-time cause of death surveillance, the phrases written in the causes of death need to be analyzed. This paper provides a method that has been used by Maricopa County Department of Public Health for several years using SAS ® macros and arrays to conduct real-time surveillance of death certificates
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