Turning thirty

Turning thirty is often a time for reflection; a time when we perhaps pause to consider certain decisions of our youth, or contemplate our futures. At thirty, we are likely to have more responsibilities and bigger goals, and are (hopefully) wiser for our experience.

The Institute’s 30th birthday evokes similar reflections.

We first opened our doors as the Australian Institute of Health in 1987, with a staff of 68, and produced the first Australia’s health biennial report the following year. Since then, many momentous events and passionate people have helped us become what we are today and perhaps, more importantly, have helped pave the way for our future.

In 1992, our Act was amended to expand our data scope and we became the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), to establish us as the authority on key health and welfare information and data in Australia. This change added the Australia’s Welfare biennial report to our flagship roster.

Over the next 10 years, our staff grew to meet the challenges of producing an ever expanding range of reports. From managing the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, developing the Disability Services National Minimum Data Set, and a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and welfare bulletins, through to reports on burden of disease, population health, and youth justice, we have seen how these have aided policy decisions in improving the health and wellbeing of our nation.

Focusing on the key achievements of the last 10 years or so, we acknowledge the following moments that have contributed to our current work and helped to shape the direction of our future work:

  • 2007 The AIHW strengthened its ties with the Australian Institute of Family Studies through a collaborative partnership to work on areas of children and families, developing and collecting longitudinal data sets and providing statistical advice and services.
  • June 2009 The Institute implemented a Reconciliation Action Plan to enhance relationships between the AIHW and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • 2007–2014 Pathways in Aged Care was launched. This was the first time data could be used to track and examine older people’s use of government-funded aged care programs, from initial program assessment to death. Pathways in Aged Care was seeded from an initial National Health and Medical Research Council grant in 1996. Further research extended coverage of aged care activity up to 2014.‚Äč
  • 2009–10 AIHW staff numbers grew from 270 to 372 to continue work on the four Council of Australian Governments National Agreement areas—health care and hospitals, housing and homelessness disability services and Indigenous reform.
  • 2010–11 The AIHW’s custom-built data collection tool— Validata™—was released, which has dramatically improved data quality and reduced the time it takes to produce a report. It can quickly pick up anomalies and unlikely occurrences in supplied data. It has progressively been extended across AIHW data collections and to some of our data providers.
  • 2011 The AIHW became the first agency to be accredited as an Integrating Authority—perhaps one of the most exciting advancements for the Institute— allowing us to integrate Australian Government data for high-risk research projects. This formed the basis of more complex data linkage work.
  • Also in 2011, the MyHospitals website was launched, drawing on data provided to the AIHW by state and territory health departments.
  • 2011 The Specialist Homelessness Services data collection was launched. Shifting to people-centred data, the AIHW expanded the concept of a ‘client’ to include children, enabling us to review services accessed by a wider range of individuals and family groups. This opened the door for longitudinal data sets to be created, analysing services used over a 12-month period and mapping people’s pathways through service provision. In turn, this helped us to construct a picture of homelessness services that led to reports such as Domestic and family violence and homelessness 2011-12 to 2013-14. The Specialist Homelessness Information Platform client management system was developed to directly support agencies to delivering more timely and accurate data about these homelessness services.
  • 2016 The transfer of the functions of the National Health Performance Authority to the AIHW saw staff numbers expand by 30, across Canberra with a new presence in Sydney. After a successful year as the Health Performance and Accountability Framework (HPAF) Group, the team will further integrate over 2017–18. With this.
  • 2017 In May 2017, the AIHW released the first ever national mental health restraint data (the restriction of an individual’s freedom of movement by physical or mechanical means). The release builds on AIHW’s earlier work in establishing a national mental health seclusion data collection.

Shaping the future

  • 2015 An independent review of the AIHW examined a range of areas, from the Institute’s business and funding model through to our product range. The report provided a number of key recommendations that led to the development of our 2017–2021 Strategic Directions.
  • 2014–15 The AIHW’s AGILE framework was created to help direct staff in thinking more about the people who use our data and information and what products best serve their diverse needs. To facilitate this, the AGILE product pyramid was developed. It features five tiers of products that correspond to specific user needs, ranging from easy-to-digest ‘bite sized’ information to more complex products for our expert users and researchers.
  • 2016 Department of Health authorised the supply of Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data for linkage purposes, making the process more efficient. It also opened doors for systematic linkage with different Australian and state government agencies and hospitals. An example of this was Better Cardiac Care, a specialist project that linked Victorian hospitals and other agencies to data from Medicare. This highlighted care pathways and areas requiring improvement.
  • In 2016, we also completed 33 data linkage projects and saw the release of the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011.
  • 2017 Strategic Directions 2017–2021 sets out how we will apply and strengthen our capabilities to meet our strategic goals, which includes becoming drivers of data improvements and expert sources of value-added analysis.
  • 2017 The AIHW undertook a wide-ranging communications review, focusing on three key areas: internal communications, stakeholder management, and external communications. The new strategy supports the Strategic Directions, articulates priorities and outlines a proactive approach to disseminate and showcase the Institute’s work.
  • 2017 The AIHW was invited to join the Prime Minister and Cabinet Data Availability and Use Taskforce, a cross-portfolio taskforce preparing the government’s response to a Productivity Commission public inquiry. The overarching goal is to encourage innovation, and improve government policies and outcomes. The AIHW also has a role in the Australian Government’s new Data Integration Partnership for Australia, through which data analytics teams will be supported to deliver improved, evidence-based programs and policy.
  • 2017 The GEN website (for which the Department of Health provided the AIHW with funding in 2016) launched. The site’s purpose is to expand on the current format of the National Aged Care Data Clearinghouse—specifically, by increasing the awareness, accessibility and usability of aged care data.
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