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MSN Course Insight: Using CDC WONDER as a Resource in Nursing

Study alongside Walden University students and explore this required reading taken from the Master of Science in Nursing course “Role of the Nurse Leader in Population Health.”

The more we know about diseases and their causes, the more we can do to prevent and treat them. As a nurse, you undoubtedly spend part of your professional time learning about new studies and protocols that can help you better care for your patients. But there’s a difference between waiting for others to provide you with useful health data and knowing how to go out and find that data yourself.

Thanks to the Wide-ranging ONline Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) website, nurses like you can take a proactive approach to studying diseases, their causes, and their prevalence among specific populations. Developed and run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WONDER is a dynamic database that allows you to cross-reference health data on chronic conditions, communicable diseases, environmental health, health practice and prevention, injury prevention, national notifiable conditions, occupational health, and other data related to population heath. It’s an invaluable tool for any nurse who wants to conduct research and uncover ways to help improve patients’ health. The first step, however, is learning how to use WONDER and interpret the reports it provides. For many nurses, understanding and using WONDER begins in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. For example, in Walden University’s MSN program, students in the course “Role of the Nurse Leader in Population Health” take an in-depth look at WONDER and what it can do. Step one is a review of the CDC’s “General Help for WONDER” page, which describes the basics of WONDER.1 The page covers the following:

The purposes for WONDER

  • To promote information-driven decision making by placing timely, useful facts in the hands of public health practitioners and researchers
  • To provide the general public with access to specific and detailed information from CDC

What You Can Do With WONDER

  • Access statistical research data published by CDC, as well as reference materials, reports, and guidelines on health-related topics.
  • Query numeric data sets on CDC's computers, via “fill-in-the blank” web pages. Public-use data sets about mortality (deaths), cancer incidence, HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, vaccinations, natality (births), census data, and many other topics are available for query, and the requested data are readily summarized and analyzed, with dynamically calculated statistics, charts, and maps.

The Usability of WONDER

The data is ready for use in desktop applications such as word processors, spreadsheet programs, or statistical and geographic analysis packages. File formats available include plain text (ASCII), web pages (HTML), and spreadsheet files (Tab Separated Values). All of these facilities are menu-driven and require no special computer expertise.

MSN Course Insight: Using CDC WONDER as a Resource in Nursing

The Services Provided by WONDER

Communication: The website provides a single point of access to a wide variety of reports and numeric public health data. The website is recognized worldwide by the public health community and widely used in the curriculum of many schools of public health.

Data release: WONDER online databases provide data dissemination, online data query capabilities, analysis, visualization, and reporting for public health data collections. CDC programs partner with CDC WONDER to provide external partners and the public with access to their data, in compliance with the CDC data release policy. WONDER’s partners include programs throughout CDC and other agencies.

Data access: The WONDER online databases provide data and analysis to support evidence-based assessment of public health programs and population health trends. CDC WONDER also includes the CDC Scientific Data archives, a collection of scientific data sets and documentation produced by CDC.


WONDER web application: WONDER system software is available for use by public health programs and agencies. This public domain software is intended for open platform operation. The end user is a “thin” client (HTML and internet connectivity). The web application is developed in Java, XSL and XML. The data server must support standard SQL queries, and may use either flat or relational tables. Legacy data values are permissible, because the design supports the translation of values via the metadata tables.

WONDER web service: All WONDER online databases available via the WONDER web application software are accessible for automated web service data queries via the WONDER API for XML document exchange. This functionality supports the development of widgets or data mining. See WONDER API for more information.

Web hosting: CDC WONDER hosts web applications developed by other CDC agencies on the website, and provides server support on a platform with certification and accreditation status.

Of course, to fully learn about WONDER—and gain the skills necessary to use WONDER to its fullest potential—you’ll want to enroll in a master’s in nursing program. While earning an MSN degree may sound daunting, there are ways to make nursing school more manageable. Namely, you can take advantage of online learning.

Unlike many campus-based programs, online MSN programs are specifically geared for working nurses like you. To facilitate your ability to learn while handling other responsibilities, online nursing schools allow you to earn your master’s degree in nursing via an online learning platform, giving you the freedom to complete coursework from home or anywhere else you have internet access. Adding to the convenience is online education’s flexible scheduling. Instead of having to take classes at set times of the day, a master’s in nursing online program will let you attend class at whatever time is best for you.

And the benefits of moving from an RN to MSN aren’t just about learning more about WONDER. An MSN degree can help you take your nursing career further, giving you the skills and credentials you need to become a nurse practitioner, nurse manager, nurse educator, or any other type of nurse leader, such as an expert in health informatics.

Earning a Master of Science in Nursing can be one of the best decisions you make for your career in nursing. And when you choose to move from an RN to MSN online, you can earn your MSN while continuing to work full time.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an Master of Science in Nursing degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.



Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,