The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) is pleased to produce the thirteenth version of the National health data dictionary (‘the NHDD’), which is a vital tool in the collection and processing of Australian health data.

The NHDD is a national resource which health jurisdictions use to ensure the consistency and comparability of all data collected under the National Health Information Agreement. In this time of change, it is imperative that the health care community continues to standardise the meaning and representation of data used for both clinical purposes and statistical analysis. The use of the NHDD is an important step in this process.

Through the cooperation and consensus of Australia’s health sector it is possible to produce a set of core definitions and data elements for use in any Australian health data collection. All Australian health departments, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the AIHW, the National Centre for Classification in Health, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Health Insurance Commission, the Australian Private Hospitals Association, and representatives of the private health insurance industry, consumers and clinicians cooperate in this endeavour.

With the comparability of data collected based on definitions in the NHDD, information collected by jurisdictions throughout Australia can provide meaningful input to community discussion and public policy debate on health issues in Australia. The aim of such discussion is to improve the quality and safety of health care for all Australians.