First-of-its-kind data tool puts Australia’s international health performance in the spotlight

For the first time, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has built a tool that can be used to compare Australian data on health and healthcare with comparable international data.

The data tool, International health data comparisons 2018, provides a new way of comparing Australia’s performance across a range of health-related measures from the data of 36 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries.

The tool provides users with interactive data visualisations to give a snapshot comparison of key health indicators including life expectancy, health risk factors and causes of death. It also gives insights into how Australia’s healthcare system compares, including data on our pharmaceutical market, health insurance coverage, and waiting times for elective surgery.

‘The data show that Australia performs relatively well across most of the indicators. For example, Australia has a life expectancy at birth of 82.5 years—above the OECD average of 80.6 years, and 6th highest among OECD countries,’ said AIHW spokesperson Claire Sparke.

Australia also had the 6th lowest proportion of daily smokers (12%) across OECD countries, well below the OECD average of 18%.  

‘However, the data show that there are some areas were Australia could be doing better, such as rates of overweight and obesity’ Ms Sparke said.

Overall, Australia has the 9th highest rates of overweight and obesity (63%). This is even more notable for men, with Australian men having the 3rd highest rate of overweight and obesity, behind the United States and Chile.

When it comes to our healthcare system, the data shows waiting times for most elective surgery procedures are below the OECD average. For example, Australians waited a median of 13 days for coronary bypass compared to the OECD average 22 days.

‘This new data tool is an important resource, facilitating international comparative reporting, supporting policy planning and decision-making, and enabling new types of research and analysis,’ Ms Sparke said.

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