The Australian Centre for Monitoring Population Health uses data to report on the health of Australians.
The AIHW has a long history of monitoring population health. This includes reporting on specific chronic conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, kidney disease, musculoskeletal conditions and respiratory conditions.
The Centre also monitors and reports on the health of different population groups, health determinants including risk factors, international health comparisons, cancer screening, deaths and the burden of disease.
The Centre manages a range of national data assets to provide a comprehensive resource on the health of people in Australia. Delivering meaningful information and statistics, the Centre works to improve the evidence base supporting strategic planning for health policy and services.
What is population health monitoring?
Monitoring is the process of keeping a regular and close watch over important aspects of the health of the population through various measurements, and then regularly reporting on the situation, so that the health system and society more generally can plan and respond accordingly.
Following individuals from the diagnosis of a health condition, through interactions with the health system, to recovery, further illness or death improves our ability to analyse the development and trajectory of disease; the interaction of determinants and interventions; and the role and performance of the health system in managing, treating and preventing disease.
Chronic conditions tend to be long lasting with persistent effects. As ongoing causes of illness, disability and death, chronic conditions, and their prevention and management, are a priority for action in the health sector and the focus of significant research and policy interest in Australia. The social and economic consequences of chronic conditions can impact on peoples’ quality of life and are becoming increasingly common. Continued monitoring of chronic conditions in Australia in a consistent and comparable manner can provide the signposts needed to measure key aspects of chronic condition prevention and management.
Burden of disease
Burden of disease analysis provides an estimate of the combined impact of living with illness and injury (non-fatal burden) and dying prematurely (fatal burden), using the summary metric of disability-adjusted life years (total burden). It is valuable for monitoring population health, as it allows the impact of both deaths and living with illness to be compared and reported in a consistent manner. Summary information allows comparability between diseases, population groups and population health over time. The contribution of modifiable risk factors to disease burden can be calculated using the same metrics and provides information to inform prevention policies.
Prevention, early detection and determinants of health
Many factors influence how healthy we are. All these influencing factors are known collectively as determinants of health. Health determinants can influence our health in either a positive or negative way. Determinants affecting health in a negative way are commonly referred to as risk factors. They can increase the likelihood of developing a health condition or injury or interfere in the management of existing conditions. Protective factors enhance the likelihood of positive outcomes and lessen the chance of negative consequences from exposure to risk.
In Australia, there are national population-based screening programs for breast, cervical and bowel cancers. These screening programs aim to improve population health outcomes by reducing illness and death from these cancers through early detection and intervention. The AIHW publishes reports that monitor screening activity, participation and other key performance indicators for each of the three screening programs.
Specific groups within the Australian population experience higher rates of illness and death than the general population, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse Australians and people who live in rural and remote areas. AIHW monitors the health of population groups in a comparable manner and over time to provide evidence for policy translation.