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4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001   
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Summary

How does health relate to individual wellbeing?

Good health benefits individuals both directly and by assisting them to succeed in other areas of life. Conversely, people's personal, working and social lives may be compromised or disrupted through ill health or disability, and the pain, isolation and inconvenience associated with these. There can also be substantial financial costs associated with ill health, both in terms of treatment cost and loss of income. To the extent that illness or disability restricts people's actions, their freedom and lifestyle may also be curtailed.


How does health relate to wellbeing at the societal level?

Communities have an interest in optimising the health of their members, as good health can assist people to contribute to society in a variety of ways. A community's sense of optimism and achievement can be enhanced by positive community health outcomes, or damaged where there is widespread poor health within the community. While there will always be a need for communities to respond to the ill health of their members, there are costs associated with maintaining health service infrastructures.


What are some key social issues?
  • Reducing incidence of disease, disability, injury and premature mortality, and protecting and improving the physical, mental and social health of the population.
  • Ensuring all population groups have adequate access to health facilities and services.
  • Understanding what socioeconomic and environmental factors influence good or poor health outcomes, and promoting healthy behaviours and minimising risk behaviours
  • Developing health policy, promotion and intervention activity and monitoring these
  • Monitoring trends and patterns in health and giving priority to the most prevalent causes of death and disability.
  • Ensuring health care is funded and affordable through establishing an appropriate balance between government support and private health insurance membership.


What are some key definitional changes?

Health relates to both the physical and mental state of a person, and its meaning will vary according to individual or community expectations and context. Good health is reflected not simply in the absence of disease or disability but is a continuum that includes positive states of wellbeing. A person's health is not static, but is continually being influenced by many personal, behavioural and environmental factors, by life cycle change, and by the accumulation of behaviours and choices over a lifetime.


What are the main measurement issues?
  • Due to variation in how health is perceived, and to people's lack of knowledge about their own health, self-reported health data has limitations. However, there are cost and privacy issues associated with collecting more objective health data via clinical tests.
  • Broad level mortality indicators may not identify the health needs of small groups and do not necessarily describe the extent to which the population is disabled by ill health.
  • Diagnosed disease may not reliably indicate a person's health, as diseases can exist at an underlying level. Similarly, current health status measures alone may not indicate future trends or the behaviour patterns of individuals responding to disease. In these cases, measures of lifestyle behaviours (e.g. smoking, exercise) can be useful health indicators.


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