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Preface

Every 2 years the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is required to compile a report card on the health of Australians and their health system, and once again I am delighted to introduce our 14th report in this series, Australia's health 2014.

Since this biennial flagship was first published in 1988, the demand for reliable, timely and accurate health information and statistics has increased, and Australia's health has become an indispensable national resource.

As in past editions, Australia's health 2014 answers key questions such as 'Are we getting healthier?' and 'Who does what in the health system?', and provides a summary of the performance of Australia's health system against agreed national indicators.

However, as part of the AIHW's commitment to widening our readership to include everyone with an interest in health—from the consumer to the policy maker—a new and innovative format has been used for this 2014 report.

Our focus is on key facts and health issues of the moment, presented through a combination of short statistical 'snapshots' and analytical feature articles, backed by online links to more detailed information available in other more specialised AIHW reports.

The feature articles cover a diverse range of topics, including an investigation of the health 'gap' between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, illicit drug use, private hospitals, mental health, and what the ageing of Australia's population means for us and our health system. The report also presents, for the first time, a comprehensive look at childhood obesity and youth health, and the health of the working-age population.

There are 2 important themes underlying what we have chosen to highlight in this edition: the interaction of health behaviours and risk factors on our wellbeing; and the impact of chronic disease in Australia, both individually and as a nation.

The AIHW manages many important national health information collections, and relies on the cooperation of state and territory governments, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, other independent bodies and the non-government sector to ensure the accurate and timeliness of health-related data. There have been many improvements and enhancements to national health data over recent years, but many data gaps remain. These, along with other limitations, are highlighted in 'What is missing from the picture?' sections in articles and snapshots.

As in the previous 2 editions, Australia's health 2014 is accompanied by an Australia's health—in brief mini report that summarises key statistics and concepts from the main report.

David Kalisch
Director