AIHW Director’s report

Photo of Barry Sandison, Director

The last year started with a celebration of the AIHW’s 30th birthday. Since 1987, the AIHW has provided independent, authoritative and accessible evidence that ‘tells the story’ of health and welfare in Australia. As a trusted long-term player in developing and using people-centred data, the AIHW continued to build on this reputation in 2017–18, delivering over 200 products, providing a powerful insight into the health and welfare patterns, trends and outcomes that affect Australians.

The AIHW’s data holdings include more than 150 data sets covering fields as diverse as homelessness, perinatal health, disability, alcohol and other drugs, cancer and hospitals. We also operate as the access point to share Medicare Benefits Schedule, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Centrelink data sets. We are one of a small number of Commonwealth agencies authorised to integrate national data sets which, along with our broader linkage activities, gives us the capability to tell a much richer story than any one data set could tell on its own.

The breadth of our data holdings, and our role as a Commonwealth Integrating Authority, is testament to the safe and secure data custodianship services that the AIHW offers. The recent announcement that the AIHW will manage the governance arrangements for the release of secondary data from the Australian Government’s My Health Record initiative demonstrates the confidence that stakeholders have in us.

The contribution the AIHW makes to the evidence base and to the development of health and welfare policies and programs was affirmed by the Hon Greg Hunt, MP, Minister for Health, during his visit in August. We were also honoured to host a visit in October by the Hon Ken Wyatt, AM, MP, Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health. The minister met with staff and heard about our work on variations in access to primary health care services.

Today, we operate in a rapidly changing digital age, fuelled by growing expectations that data will be available quickly, and reported in a way that supports multiple information needs. We strive to be a champion for open and accessible data by continually enhancing the presentation of our work to meet our users’ needs.

Key achievements for the AIHW in 2017–18 include:

  • announcement in the 2018 Federal Budget of a 25% increase in the AIHW’s appropriation funding to an ongoing total of about $33 million a year
  • successful completion of 92% of all measurable performance targets (see Chapter 1 Our performance for detail)
  • approval and commencement of work to establish the National Integrated Health Services Information (NIHSI) Analysis Asset (AA) that will allow the AIHW and other analysts to report on patient journeys through the health and aged care sectors
  • completion of 61 data linkage projects compared with 55 in 2016–17 and 33 in 2015–16
  • release of biennial flagship reports, Australia’s welfare 2017 (launched by Senator the Hon Zed Seselja) and Australia’s health 2018 (launched by the Hon Greg Hunt, MP)
  • release of the AIHW’s first Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia report that brought together information from multiple sources on victims and perpetrators and on the causes, impacts and outcomes of violence
  • release of 2 reports on overweight and obesity: A picture of overweight and obesity in Australia 2017 and Overweight and obesity in Australia: a birth cohort analysis
  • the first release from the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015—the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015: fatal burden preliminary estimates provides interactive data displays for more than 200 diseases and injuries in Australia
  • release of Private health insurance use in Australian hospitals 2006–07 to 2015–16, presenting information on admitted patient hospitalisations that were completely or partially funded by private health insurance
  • launch of the GEN website in August by the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP. GEN reports on capacity and activity in the aged care system
  • the sold-out 2-day ‘Breaking the Data Silos’ conference, run in partnership with the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, featured experts from a range of industries and sectors who shared their data insights
  • the AIHW and Canadian Institute for Health Information jointly hosted a health information forum in Vancouver, with representatives from England, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and Finland
  • participation in the world-first White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation Program, demonstrating the AIHW’s commitment to a safe and healthy workplace
  • creation of the AIHW Pride Network to promote an inclusive culture and LGBTIQ visibility at the AIHW.

What lies ahead?

Increased appropriation funding from the 2018 Federal Budget is a strong and positive signal about the value of the AIHW’s work. The staff of the Institute are critical to our success and 2018–19 will see us reinforce the role our people play in maintaining the Institute as a flexible and agile organisation.

We are committed to remaining at the cutting edge of developments as part of the public sector data agenda, ensuring that data are not just ‘big’, but ‘smart’—that they can be used to inform discussion, debate and public policy. We will build on our existing data governance framework and data capabilities by increasing transparency about our data holdings, reviewing internal data-related policies, and identifying opportunities to fill gaps created by the changing data landscape. We will focus on closing data gaps in relation to primary health care, housing and homelessness, vulnerable children and youth, ambulance services, Centrelink payments and the pathways of people across services (e.g. NIHSI AA).

We will continue to implement our new information and communications technology (ICT) strategy and ensure our ICT infrastructure supports the needs of both internal and external users. This will include replacing the AIHW’s online repository for metadata, METeOR, and improving or redeveloping the range of websites under the AIHW umbrella. We will also further modernise our products, with a focus on improved data visualisation capabilities, and new formats for our 2 flagship reports, starting with Australia’s welfare 2019.

Above all, we will reinforce our attention on being a national asset, focused on people data.

I would like to thank the AIHW Board and Board Chair, Mrs Louise Markus, for their oversight and counsel during the year, and extend my heartfelt thanks to the AIHW staff, whose dedication, passion and expertise are the foundations on which the Institute is built.

Barry Sandison