Every 2 years the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) is required to compile a national report card on the health of Australians and their health system, and I am delighted to introduce our 15th report in the series, Australia's health 2016.

Over the past 3 decades, Australia's health has become an indispensable resource for anyone who seeks health information that is reliable, timely and accurate.

This year, as in past editions, the report answers fundamental questions about our health status and conditions that cause ill health, and assesses the performance of our health system against agreed national indicators.

Current health issues are discussed in 18 analytical feature articles that cover a broad range of topics—from premature mortality, and illicit drug use, to health spending, and safety and quality in Australian hospitals. New topics include changing patterns in hospital care, health care use by older Australians, and an analysis of how geography affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women's access to maternal health services. For the first time, we also include an article on end-of-life care, and highlight the findings from the Australian Burden of Disease Study undertaken by the AIHW.

The feature articles are underpinned by a collection of 43 short statistical 'snapshots' that profile leading types of illness, risk factors, health behaviours, and the services available to help prevent and treat ill health.

The report shows that health is not the same for everyone—Indigenous Australians, people living outside major cities and in low socioeconomic areas, people with mental illness or disability, and prisoners generally have higher rates of illness, health risk factors and death than other Australians.

Although national health information collections have improved, gaps still remain. These data gaps, and opportunities for further improvements, are discussed in 'What is missing from the picture?' sections throughout the report.

Australia's health 2016 is accompanied by an Australia's health 2016—in brief mini report that summarises statistics and concepts from the main report, and online resources.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the AIHW staff who worked on this significant report and the many experts who provided the AIHW with valuable advice. Their contributions are recognised in the Acknowledgments section.

The AIHW is committed to improving the usefulness and relevance of its biennial flagship reports, and welcomes feedback on Australia's health 2016.

Andrew Kettle
Acting Director