Summary and recommendations

This report reviews the statistical information needs of the Public Health Division, recommends a coherent set of strategies for addressing its future information needs and makes specific recommendations for the future management of its current statistical activities (reviewed in Section 2). The report develops a coherent conceptual framework for national public health information, including a systematic approach to priority populations and equity issues (Section 3) and uses this to identify the information needs of the Public Health Division and gaps and deficiencies in existing national information (Section 4). The wider national health information environment and potential sources of national public health information are summarised in Section 5. Section 6 proposes a coherent set of strategies for addressing the Division's needs for public health information and makes specific recommendations listed below.

The report proposes that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) be the lead agency for information infrastructure development under the proposed National Public Health Partnership, with its responsibilities including:

  • the co-ordination and development of national health data collections to address the national needs for public health data under the Partnership;
  • development and implementation of comprehensive national indicators for surveillance ("warning and prioritising'') and core national indicators for monitoring ("how are we doing"); and
  • national reporting of these sets of indicators.

The report also proposes that the Division reach agreement with AIHW to provide it with support for a number of existing statistical activities, for development activities, for general support in provision and analysis of health information, for online access to AIHW data collections, and for the provision of statistical and health information expertise to the Division in its areas of national public health priority. More detailed data for management, performance monitoring, and evaluation in these areas should remain the prime responsibility of the Division.

The report recommends a set of strategies for information planning and management by the Division, covering the information management role of Infrastructure Development Section, the outposting of several AIHW staff to coordinate and support information planning, the enhancement of online access to health data collections, a more strategic approach to addressing gaps in public health information, and the management of specific statistical activities. Specific recommendations follow.