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Australia's international ranking for numerous aspects of health is among the top 10 of the world's developed countries, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's latest national report card on health, Australia's health 2006.
The report was launched today by the Minister for Health and Ageing, Tony Abbott, at the opening of the 'Australia's health 2006' conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra.
It shows that while we should be pleased with the overall improvements in health, lifestyle-related risk factors such as insufficient physical activity, obesity and Type 2 Diabetes are still a concern. Smoking also remains a public health challenge, and there is still too little evidence that the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is improving.
Australia's health 2006 looks at the health status of the Australian population and the factors that influence it, including health services and expenditure. This edition of the biennial publication also includes a special chapter on the health of Australia's children, and shows that children under 15 years of age are generally much healthier than in previous generations.
'Vaccination rates have improved in recent years and smoking rates halved between 1994 and 2002. However, childhood obesity is still a great cause for concern, as is the increased incidence of diabetes,' said Dr Penny Allbon, Director of the AIHW.
AIHW Medical Advisor and Australia's health 2006 editor Dr Paul Magnus noted that Australia's overall cancer death rates declined by about 14% between 1986 and 2004.
'Australia's smoking rates are already low when compared with other western countries, so with rates continuing to fall, Australia's ranking has improved from the middle third to the best third,' Dr Magnus said.
Australia's international ranking for death rates from coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and transport accidents have also improved markedly.
'There is now much better information in the community about health, and Australia's network of health services has continued to improve, providing prevention, early intervention and better treatment of disease,' Dr Allbon said.
Our international rankings have fallen however, in relation to diabetes (self-reported diabetes more than doubled between 1989-90 and 2004-05) respiratory diseases, and mortality from suicide, even though the overall suicide rate for males in 2004 was the lowest since records began in 1907,' she added.
'The other disturbing fact that continues to pervade the overall health picture is the poorer health of Australia's Indigenous population. Death rates of Indigenous infants remain about 3 times those of other Australian infants, and about 70% of Indigenous Australians die before reaching 65, compared with a little over 20% for other Australians.'
Australia's health 2006 explores many aspects of Australia's complex health system in one volume. It brings statistics together in a way designed to inform policy makers, service providers, consumers and interested citizens alike.
'Overall, the picture that emerges is of a high quality health system serving the bulk of the population well, but under pressure to deliver even more,' Dr Allbon said.
Australia's Health 2006 Highlights:
21 June 2006
Further information: Dr Paul Magnus, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1149 or 02 6244 1168
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.
Availability: Australia's health 2006