Better data needed for better decisions in health

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

‘If we want Australians to have the best possible health system then we need better data in order to make better decisions in healthcare’, said Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Acting Chief Executive Dr Linc Thurecht.

‘To this end the AHHA is concerned that there is as yet no national commitment to continue the excellent Australian Health Survey last conducted in 2011–2013, and funded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Health and the Heart Foundation.

The AHHA supports the next Australian Health Survey being conducted in 2021, and then conducted every six years in conjunction with a triennial National Health Survey as recommended in the Australian Health Policy Collaboration report Better data for better decisions: the case for an Australian Health Survey.

The Australian Health Survey measured a comprehensive range of anthropometric and biomedical measures and risk factors for preventable chronic diseases in the Australian population. These data have provided valuable intelligence to address the burden of chronic disease.

‘We need regular and comprehensive information about the health of people living in Australia if we want to plan and provide the best possible health system’, Dr Thurecht said.

‘Australia has a number of health-related surveys but we still remain behind most other developed nations in the health information we regularly collect and use in health policy and planning.

‘The Australian Health Survey, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, gave us comprehensive health information that is critical for evidence-informed health services planning.

‘Repeating the survey regularly would provide data that tracks changes in health needs and risk factors to provide better targeting of healthcare and health interventions, and improve efficiency in healthcare spending.

‘Regular and predictable repeats of comparable surveys increases the value of the data collected over time.

‘It also builds the skills of the survey’s administrators, data analysts and policy analysts over time, which could lead to administrative savings by not having to re-skill a workforce on an ad hoc basis.

‘The survey will provide a strong evidence-base for decision making and a valuable source of data for health and medical researchers.

‘Funding the Australian Health Survey through the Medical Research Future Fund is suggested. This not only fulfils the funding principles of the fund, it is also an appropriate way of insulating the survey from year‑to‑year Budget pressures.

‘It could be argued that secondary use of My Health Record data would make the Australian Health Survey unnecessary—and indeed a framework is being developed for this. But the quality and comprehensiveness of these data will not be of sufficient standard in the short to medium term, and in any case are primarily collected for clinical rather than policy purposes’, Dr Thurecht said.

For more information on the AHHA, visit

Better data for better decisions: the case for an Australian Health Survey is available online.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries: Dr Linc ThurechtA/Chief Executive, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, 0401 393 729