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Health indicators are summary measures that are designed to describe particular aspects of health or health system performance. Health indicators are generally developed in the context of a conceptual framework, such as the National Health Performance Framework.
The National Health Performance Framework (NHPF) was first developed in 2001 and revised in 2009. The main purpose of the NHPF is to provide a structure for reporting on the performance of the Australian health system at the national level. The framework can also be used as a guiding structure when developing sets of performance indicators for more discrete components of the health system, such as a particular program, or a specific target group.
In late 2008, national and state/territory governments signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations and a series of associated agreements. Among these was a new National Healthcare Agreement, which outlines the goals of the health system and specifies roles and responsibilities of these governments in managing and providing health services. Signatories to the National Healthcare Agreement are accountable to the community for their progress against the agreed outcomes of the agreement. The agreement contains a set of progress and output measures to support assessment of progress towards the agreed outcomes. The first report on these indicators was published by the COAG Reform Council in June 2010 and the second cycle of reporting is due for publication in mid-2011.
Following a request from the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference in February 2008, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) developed a set of performance indicators to support the agreements that would replace the 2003–2008 Australian Health Care Agreements. This technical advice was one of the inputs to the indicators (progress measures and output measures) subsequently selected for the National Healthcare Agreement.
Specifications for the progress and output measures included in the National Healthcare Agreement were published by the COAG Reform Council in June 2010.
National Agreement indicator specifications relevant to national reporting on health, housing assistance and community services are also included on the AIHW’s Metadata Online Registry (METeOR) in the National Indicator Catalogue (NIC) .