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4363.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: Users' Guide - Electronic Publication, 2007-08  
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This document was added 09/17/2009.



CONTENTS

Introduction
Healthy lifestyles
Actions for specific conditions

      Consultations with GP or specialist
      Consultations with other health professionals
      Use of medications
      Days away from work, school or study
      Other actions for selected conditions
Private health insurance


INTRODUCTION

The 2007-08 NHS obtained information about general actions relating to a healthy lifestyle, particular actions (including use of medications) for selected conditions, and private health insurance.

Information on actions relating to a healthy lifestyle included:
  • check-ups with general practitioner (GP) in the last 12 months;
  • consultations with specialists and other health professionals in the last 12 months; and
  • discussion of lifestyle issues with health professionals in the last 12 months.

Data on particular actions for selected conditions was collected via:
  • questions on actions common to the majority of selected conditions, including:
      • medication used in the last 2 weeks;
      • frequency of visits to GP/specialist;
      • consultation with health professional other than GP or specialist in the last 12 months;
      • discussion on self-management of condition with GP or specialist (ever, and in the last 12 months); and
      • days away from work/study/school in the last 12 months.
  • questions on actions pertinent to selected conditions only.

The selected conditions for which actions data is collected are asthma, cancer, heart and circulatory conditons, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and mental health condtions.

The data items available from this section of the survey are listed under the particular topic to which they relate. Data items which combine various actions taken, enabling analysis of action levels and patterns in respect of population groups, etc., can also be produced on request.

For practical reasons (i.e. limited interview time and the difficulties in defining every possible type of action a person may have taken in relation to his/her health), the survey covered only the limited range of actions listed above. These actions reflect the areas known to be of interest to data users and cover the more common actions people take in relation to their health. However, care should be taken not to interpret the data as comprehensive of all actions taken.

In the 2007-08 NHS, information was collected about medication used for selected conditions (asthma, heart and circulatory conditions, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis, mental health conditions and mental wellbeing). Details of medication used are available separately for each of these conditions.

Twelve month reference periods ensured sufficient observations were recorded in the survey to support reliable results. The two week period is applied for medication use as respondents' recall is considered to be more accurate in this timeframe.


HEALTHY LIFESTYLES

Definition

This topic provides data on frequency and some aspects of the nature of visits to GPs and other health professionals for general health. A GP 'check-up' may include the following:
  • collection of family, medical and lifestyle history
  • physical examinations such as blood pressure, height and weight
  • tests such as pap smears, blood tests, urine tests and cancer screening
  • giving advice on how to improve the patient's health, such as actions to take and referrals to other professionals

Respondents may have check-ups when they see their doctor for other reasons, or may specifically visit their doctor for a check-up.


Methodology

Respondents were asked whether they have check-ups with a GP, and if so, how frequently. Respondents were then asked whether they had discussed any of the following lifestyle issues with their GP:
      1. Reducing or quitting smoking;
      2. Drinking alcohol in moderation;
      3. Reaching a healthy weight;
      4. Increasing physical activity; and
      5. Eating healthy food or improving their diet.

Respondents who answered yes to one or more of these points were considered to have discussed healthy lifestyle issues with their GP.

Respondents were then asked whether they had visited any of the following health professionals for their own health or discussed any of the lifestyle issues above with them, in the last 12 months, and if so, which health professional they had consulted.
  • Specialist doctor
  • Accredited counsellor
  • Acupuncturist
  • Chemist (for advice only)
  • Chiropodist/Podiatrist
  • Chiropractor
  • Diabetes educator
  • Dietitian/Nutritionist
  • Naturopath
  • Nurse
  • Occupational therapist
  • Optician/Optometrist
  • Osteopath
  • Physiotherapist/Hydrotherapist
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker/Welfare officer
  • Other


Population

All persons aged 15 years and over.


Data items

The data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the downloads tabs of the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001) and the National Health Survey Data Reference Package, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.002).


Interpretation

Points to be considered when interpreting data from the survey on healthy lifestyles include the following:
  • Respondents may have interpreted 'check-ups' in different ways, although interviewers were provided with the definition of check-up shown above.
  • Reporting 'usual' activity does not mean that this has happened recently.
  • Interpretation of 'discussed lifestyle issues' may have ranged from a specific discussion on this topic, including an action plan, to a passing comment made when discovering a condition.


Comparison with 2004-05

No items from 2007-08 are directly comparable with NHS 2004-05, as both the questions and the collection periods differ. The reference period for GP and specialist consultations in 2004-05 was the previous two weeks, while in 2007-08 it was ever, or within the last 12 months. Respondents who had not seen a GP or specialist in the last two weeks in 2004-05 were asked how long it had been since they last consulted a doctor for their own health. This question was not asked in 2007-08.

New items in 2007-08 included whether discussed healthy lifestyle with GP or other health professional in last 12 months.


ACTIONS FOR SPECIFIC CONDITIONS: CONSULTATIONS WITH A GP OR SPECIALIST

Definition

This topic refers to the frequency of occasions on which a respondent saw a general practitioner or specialist for a selected condition, and whether respondents discussed self-management of that condition with their GP or specialist. The topic excludes:
  • consultations during a visit to casualty or an emergency ward or an outpatient section at a hospital, a stay in hospital, or a visit to a day clinic; and
  • visits to a GP or specialist to deliver a sample or collect a prescription only, without seeing the GP or specialist.

The topic includes all consultations with a GP or specialist, regardless of the type of treatment/service provided. For example, a consultation with a GP at which acupuncture or physiotherapy was performed would be included, where identified, in this item.


Methodology

Respondents with asthma, cancer, heart and circulatory conditons, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis or mental health conditions were asked how often they usually consult a GP or specialist for that condition.

Persons with asthma, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis were asked whether they had ever discussed any of the following with their GP or specialist in relation to that condition:
      1. The illness, its symptoms and possible effects;
      2. Developing a treatment plan;
      3. How to actively share with their doctor in making decisions about how to manage their condition;
      4. Changes to lifestyle which may improve health;
      5. How to monitor and manage the signs and symptoms of their condition; and
      6. How to manage the impact of their condition on their physical, emotional and social life.

Respondents who answered yes to one or more of these points were considered to have discussed self-management with their GP or specialist.


Population

Information was obtained for all persons with the selected conditions listed above.


Data items

Data items for this topic are linked to specific conditions. The data items and related output categories for each condition are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the downloads tabs of the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001) and the National Health Survey Data Reference Package, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.002).


Interpretation

When interpreting data from the survey relating to GP and specialist consultations, the following should be considered:
  • Consultation information is essentially ‘as reported’ by respondents. In some cases respondents may have reported consultations with health practitioners other than GPs or specialists because they considered them to be GPs or specialists. Conversely, some consultations reported as being with other health professionals (see below) should have been reported for this item, where the practitioner consulted was a GP or specialist (regardless of the type of treatment/service provided at the consultation).
  • While the wording and ordering of the questions deterred respondents from reporting consultations with a GP or specialist during a visit to, or stay in, hospital or visit to a day clinic, some cases of misreporting may have occurred.


Comparability with 2004-05

Data items for this topic were new in 2007-08, therefore no comparisons can be made.


CONSULTATIONS WITH OTHER HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

Definition

This topic refers to occasions in the 12 months prior to interview on which respondents with selected health conditions consulted one or more of the following health professionals:
  • Accredited counsellor
  • Acupuncturist
  • Audiologist/Audiometrist
  • Chiropractor
  • Chemist (for advice only)
  • Chiropodist/Podiatrist
  • Diabetes educator
  • Dietician/Nutritionist
  • Naturopath
  • Nurse
  • Occupational therapist
  • Optician/Optometrist
  • Osteopath
  • Physiotherapist/Hydrotherapist
  • Psychologist
  • Social Worker/Welfare officer
  • Other

The topic refers to consultations at which some discussion and/or treatment of a health-related matter or medical condition took place, or was arranged. It excludes:
  • occasions on which respondents may have visited the professional only to obtain medical supplies, aids, etc. For example, consulting a chemist about a medication would be included, while visiting a chemist simply to fill a prescription would not; consulting an optometrist about a sight problem would be included but going to an optometrist to have a pair of glasses made to prescription would not;
  • consultations during a visit to casualty or an emergency ward or an outpatient section at a hospital, a stay in hospital, or a visit to a day clinic;
  • consultations with nurses as part of a doctor consultation. These occurrences are recorded as doctor consultations;
  • consultations with a doctor at which any of the services provided by the health professionals listed above (e.g. acupuncture, counselling, etc.) were received. These occurrences are recorded as doctor consultations.

Consultations were recorded against the type of other health professional (OHP) involved, not the type of treatment provided at a particular consultation. For example, if a chiropractor performed physiotherapy, the consultation was recorded under chiropractor. If a practitioner was considered by the respondent to fit more than one of the types listed above, the visit has been recorded against that type of OHP most closely associated with the most recent consultation in the 12 month period.


Methodology

Using a prompt card, respondents with asthma, cancer, heart and circulatory conditons, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis or mental health condtions were asked whether they had consulted any of the listed OHPs in the 12 months prior to interview. If they had, the respondent was asked to identify which types of OHP had been consulted. More than one OHP could be identified.


Population

Information was obtained for all persons with the selected conditions above.


Data items

Data items for this topic are linked to specific conditions. The data items and related output categories for each condition are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the downloads tabs of the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001) and the National Health Survey Data Reference Package, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.002).


Interpretation

Points to be considered when interpreting data on OHP consultations from this survey include the following.
  • While it was recognised that all respondents may not understand the functions of all the OHPs listed, it was considered that in most cases they could accurately identify the type of OHP they had consulted. Interviewers were provided with a list defining the main activities of each of the OHPs covered to assist respondents if queried. However, it is possible that some misreporting of type of OHP may have occurred. For example, in cases where the distinction between types of OHP was unclear in the respondent's mind and/or the professional practised more than one form of treatment (e.g. chiropractor/osteopath).
  • Conceptually, consultations were only to be recorded where some treatment and/or discussion of a health-related matter took place. However, it is recognised that this distinction may be difficult to make in some cases and interpretation may differ between respondents. In particular, the possibility that reported consultations with opticians/optometrists or chemists were not consultations as defined should be considered (i.e; they may have been visits to pick up glasses or a script only).


Comparability with 2004-05

Data items for this topic were new in 2007-08, therefore no comparisons can be made.


USE OF MEDICATIONS

Definition

This topic refers to the consumption or other use of any medications, pills or ointments for selected conditions or mental wellbeing during the two weeks prior to interview, including vitamins, mineral supplements and herbal or natural medications, and both prescribed and non-prescribed medications.

In survey output, the following terms are used to describe particular groups of products:
  • 'Medications', referring to all reported medications, including pharmaceutical medications, vitamin and mineral supplements and natural and herbal medicines; and
  • 'Pharmaceutical medications', referring to reported medications excluding those reported by respondents as vitamin or mineral supplements, and those reported as natural or herbal medicines.

It should be noted that this terminology has been adopted for the purposes of describing different groups in the survey, and should not be assumed to be an exact description of the contents of each group. The distinction between pharmaceutical medications, vitamin and mineral supplements and natural and herbal medicines is based primarily on the distinction made by respondents in providing the information.


Methodology

Respondents were asked about medications used for asthma, cancer, heart and circulatory conditons, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, mental health conditions and mental wellbeing. Except in the case of medications used for mental wellbeing, provision was made to record up to a maximum of 3 separate medication names for each of the reported conditions specified above. In cases where 4 or more medications were reported, only the 3 medications regarded by the respondent as the 'main' medications they used for that condition were recorded. Provision was made for interviewers to record the fact that the respondent identified more than 3 medications used.

In responding to questions on medication use, interviewers encouraged respondents to collect and refer to medication bottles, packets, etc. This served to assist respondents in reporting all medications used for a particular condition, and assist interviewers in accurately recording the medication name. The name recorded may have been a brand or generic name.

The names of the medications reported were office coded to a classification of the generic type of medication based on the WHO Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification (ATCC) (See Appendix 3: Classification of Medications). New medications listed in the latest Australian Medicines Handbook were added to the medication coder.

Occasionally, where respondents have several conditions, medications are misreported. These medications are linked to the condition reported but are classified under the medication level as stated in the ATCC.

The methodology used to obtain this information was similar throughout the survey, but there were some differences for individual conditions/reasons for use. Each of the approaches is summarised below. Further information is contained in the individual condition sections in Chapter 3 of this user guide.

Arthritis

Respondents who reported they currently had arthritis (irrespective of whether or not they had been told by a doctor or nurse) were asked:
  • whether they had used any medication for their arthritis in the last 2 weeks, and if so, the names of up to 3 medications used; and
  • whether they had taken any vitamin, mineral, natural or herbal supplements in the last 2 weeks and the type used as specified on a prompt card, including the name or brand of vitamin D and calcium supplements.

Asthma

Respondents who reported they had been told by a doctor or nurse that they had asthma, that it was still a current condition, and that they had had symptoms of or treatment for asthma in the last 12 months, were asked:
  • whether they had used any medication (including vitamins, minerals, natural and herbal medicine) for their asthma in the last 2 weeks, and if so, the names of up to 3 medications used (other than vitamins, minerals, natural and herbal medicines); and
  • the frequency of using each of the identified medications in the last two weeks.

Cancer

Respondents who reported they had been told by a doctor or nurse that they had cancer and that it was a current condition were asked:
  • whether they had used any vitamin or mineral supplements or any herbal or natural medicines for cancer in the previous two weeks.

Heart and circulatory conditions

Respondents who reported they had been told by a doctor or nurse that they had a heart or circulatory condition, and reported that it was a current and long term condition, were asked whether they had taken any medications for any of their heart or circulatory conditions in the previous two weeks, and if so, whether they knew which condition each medication was for. Respondents who knew which condition their medication was for were then asked about specific use of medications for up to three heart and circulatory conditions. If more than three heart or circulatory conditions were reported, the respondent was asked to provide information for the three most severe conditions. The most severe conditions were determined by the respondent. Up to three medications were recorded for each condition.

Respondents were also asked about any vitamin or mineral supplements or any herbal or natural medicines used in the previous 2 weeks.

General information about the use of aspirin was also reported, as follows:
  • whether aspirin was taken on a daily basis; and
  • whether advised by doctor to take aspirin on a daily basis.

Medication which contains aspirin should have been included in responses to this question, however, some respondents may not be aware that their medication contained aspirin so this data may be under-reported.

In 2007-08 it was decided that people who reported that they had ever had a heart attack, heart failure, a stroke, angina or rheumatic heart disease should be treated as having a current and long-term condition despite what may have been reported. However, as this decision was taken after the development of the questionnaire, respondents who reported that their condition was not current were not asked subsequent questions relating to medication.

Testing had shown that some people with multiple heart and circulatory conditions sometimes did not know the particular condition for which a particular medication was used. People who could not associate all their heart or circulatory medications with a specific condition were asked to report the names of up to three medications used for heart or circulatory conditions.

Diabetes

Respondents who reported they had been told by a doctor or nurse that they had diabetes (other than diabetes insipidus) or high sugar levels in their blood or urine, and reported it was still a current condition, were asked:
  • whether they were currently having daily insulin, age started having insulin and the brand name of the insulin taken;
  • whether they had used any medications apart from insulin (other than vitamin or mineral supplements or any herbal or natural medicines) for that condition in the previous two weeks;
  • the names of up to three medications used; and
  • whether they had taken any other action to manage their condition in the previous two weeks, including use of vitamin or mineral supplements or any herbal or natural medicines.

Osteoporosis/osteopenia

Respondents who reported they had been told by a doctor or nurse that they had osteoporosis/osteopenia were asked:
  • whether they had used any medications (other than vitamin or mineral supplements or any herbal or natural medicines) for that condition in the last two weeks;
  • the names of up to three medications used; and
  • whether they had taken selected vitamin and mineral supplements in the last two weeks for osteoporosis/osteopenia, and the type of supplement used (as specified on a prompt card), including the name or brand of vitamin D and calcium supplements.

Mental Health Conditions

Respondents who reported they had a mental or behavioural problem, and that it was a long-term condition, were asked about medications used in the last two weeks which were directly related to their mental conditions. These questions were similar to those asked for mental wellbeing (see below), however, the number of medications recorded were limited to three. The same medications could be reported for both mental health conditions and mental wellbeing.

Information collected was:
  • whether they had used vitamin or mineral supplement for their conditions;
  • whether they had used herbal or natural treatments for their conditions;
  • whether they had used sleeping tablets or capsules, tablets or capsules for anxiety or nerves, tranquillisers, antidepressants, mood stabilisers or other medications for mental health;
  • the brand/product names for up to three types of main medication used;
  • the duration of use for each of up to three types of medication reported; and
  • the frequency of use in the last two weeks for each of up to three types of medication used.

Mental wellbeing

Adult respondents (aged 18 years and over) were asked about medication used in the last two weeks for mental wellbeing, for example, to improve concentration or reduce stress, as follows:
  • whether they had used vitamin or mineral supplements for mental wellbeing,
  • whether they had used herbal or natural treatments for mental wellbeing,
  • the type of vitamin and/or herbal remedies used,
  • whether they had used sleeping tablets or capsules, tablets or capsules for anxiety or nerves, tranquillisers, antidepressants, mood stabilisers or other medications for mental wellbeing,
  • the brand/product names for up to five main medications used,
  • the duration of use for each of up to five types of medication reported; and
  • the frequency of use in the last two weeks for each of up to five types of medication used.


Population

Medications data are available for persons of all ages who had reported arthritis, asthma, heart and circulatory conditions, diabetes, high sugar levels, osteoporosis or mental health conditions. Use of medications for mental wellbeing was collected only for persons aged 18 years and over.


Data items

Medication names are recorded for the purposes of enabling coding of generic type of medication, and are not available for output from the survey.

Data items for this topic are linked to specific conditions. The data items and related output categories are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the downloads tabs of the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001) and the National Health Survey Data Reference Package, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.002).


Interpretation

Points to be considered when interpreting data from this survey on the use of medications include the following.
  • The information is ‘as reported’ by respondents. This may have implications for the extent to which usage of certain types of medication were reported (e.g. tranquillisers) and the accuracy of some details provided (e.g. name of medication used, frequency of use). As a result, the data on medication use are not directly comparable with data from other sources.
  • Although respondents were encouraged to use their medication packets, bottles, etc. to assist them and interviewers in recording complete and correct details, this did not always occur, which may have led to some medications not being reported at all, or being reported incorrectly.
  • The methodology relied on respondents knowing that a particular medication was being taken for a particular condition. For respondents with several conditions who used multiple medications, some medications may have been incorrectly reported as used for a particular condition, or not reported at all because the respondent may have understood the medication was for a different condition.
  • The data relates only to medications (known and reported by respondents) used for particular types of medical conditions or reasons. Direct questions relating to mental health conditions are not asked; respondents must volunteer that they have these conditions. As a result the data does not indicate the levels of total medication use, nor does it necessarily indicate the total use of a particular medication type, especially in cases where a medication can be used for a range of different conditions.
  • Data relating to medication use for mental wellbeing differs from the other medication data because it is not necessarily related to a medically diagnosed condition, and conceptually includes use for preventive or other reasons where no medical condition is present.
  • Apart from persons with arthritis and osteoporosis, respondents were not asked about the types of product/substance they reported as vitamins/minerals or natural/herbal medicines. As a result, the products reported in these categories were entirely at the discretion of respondents. Some products of this type were reported in response to the questions on other medication use. Where this has occurred and the product could be identified as a vitamin/mineral or natural/herbal medicine, it was classified to a general vitamin/mineral/natural/herbal category within the generic type classification. However, where the product could not be identified as a vitamin/mineral or natural/herbal medicine it was classified to the general 'other medications' group. As a result, combining responses from the separate vitamins/minerals and natural/herbal medicine questions with those classified to this category within the generic type classification provides a more complete picture of the use of these products for the specified condition, but will not necessarily include all medications of these types.
  • Because the distinction between vitamins/minerals and natural/herbal medicines was at the discretion of respondents, and because these can be very similar (or identical) products, data for these categories have been combined.
  • Counts of medications are compiled separately for each condition type group (e.g. for heart and circulatory conditions, for asthma, for arthritis), and are generally based on the number of 3 digit 'generic type' codes which have been allocated to that group after removing duplicate codes, taking account of the supplementary question that indicates whether more medications were reported than space was allowed in the questionnaire.
  • As some respondents did not consider previous heart failure, heart attack, stroke, angina or rheumatic heart disease to be current, they were not asked questions relating to medication. Because these conditions were treated as long-term conditions in the processing of the survey, the lack of medication data for these conditions are recorded as 'not stated'.
  • For heart and circulatory conditions, asthma, diabetes, mental health conditions and mental wellbeing, vitamin and mineral supplements and natural and herbal medications are counted only once (per type per condition group) regardless of the number reported. For arthritis and osteoporosis each vitamin/mineral supplement, and each natural/herbal medication identified is counted separately. As a result:
      • The number of medications recorded for arthritis and osteoporosis may appear higher relative to other conditions, and is not comparable with other conditions.
      • The number of medications items should not be summed across condition groups to provide a total count at the person level, because of the different counting methods used and the possibility of duplications between condition groups (i.e. where the same medication is reported as being used for several different conditions).


Comparability with 2004-05 NHS

Overall, the methodology for collecting data on medication use in the 2007-08 NHS was similar to that used in the 2004-05 survey. However, while medication output from 2004-05 provided information that a medication known to be used for a condition was taken, in 2007-08, it is possible to determine which medication was taken for a particular condition.

The classification of medications used was that used in the 2004-05 NHS. The coder used to code medications to this classification was updated to include new medications introduced since the previous survey.

Factors which may need to be taken into consideration when comparing medications data between surveys include: the availability of medications (coming onto or leaving the market); changes affecting accessibility (e.g. prescription requirements); access to/arrangements for pharmaceutical benefits; and evolving practices for the treatment/management of conditions.


DAYS AWAY FROM WORK, STUDY OR SCHOOL

Definition

This topic refers to days, during the 12 months prior to interview, on which respondents stayed away from work, study or school due to a specified condition. For the purposes of this topic, a 'day away' was defined as more than half the work or study day absent. If a person was away from both work and study, details were recorded against each activity.


Methodology

As appropriate to their age, educational and employment circumstances, respondents with asthma, cancer, heart and circulatory conditons, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis or mental health conditions were asked whether they had stayed away from work, study or school for more than half a day in the last 12 months because of the specified condition.

The number of days away was collected for each medical condition involved.


Population

Information was obtained about time away from work, study or school because of a specified condition for the following populations:
  • Days away from work due to own illness: employed persons aged 15-64 years
  • Days away from study or school due to own illness: persons aged 5-64 years


Data items

Data items for this topic are linked to specific conditions. The data items and related output categories for each condition are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the downloads tabs of the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001) and the National Health Survey Data Reference Package, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.002).


Interpretation

Points to be considered when interpreting data on days away from work, study or school include the following:
  • Sequencing of respondents through this section of the questionnaire relied on previous information recorded about their current employment and/or student status. To the extent that reporting or recording errors may have occurred in this information, the information recorded about days away from work or school/study will also be affected.
  • The survey can provide information about both the number of people (and their characteristics) taking time away from work or school/study due to a specific condition, and the number of days away. While efforts were made in the questionnaire to ensure only illness-related days away were included, and only days where more than half a day's absence was involved were counted, some misreporting may have occurred.
  • The questions about days away from work were not asked in terms of a particular job. For persons with more than one job, therefore, the days away were not necessarily days away from their main job. While the impact of this is expected to be minor, it should be considered when, for example, analysing information on days away from work against reported occupation or industry of main job.
  • Respondents may have had days away because of more than one condition at the same time, therefore number of days away for different conditions cannot be added together for total number of days away.


Comparability with 2004-05

Data for whether a person had days away from work, study or school for their own condition are not considered to be comparable between the 2007-08 and 2004-05 surveys. In 2007-08, the reference period was the previous 12 months, whereas in 2004-05 the period was the previous 2 weeks.

The number of days away for a particular condition was not collected in 2004-05. Data for number of days away because of any condition, and days away from work, study or school as a carer were not collected in 2007-08.


OTHER ACTIONS FOR SELECTED CONDITIONS

Definition

This topic refers to condition-specific actions for persons with asthma, cancer, heart or circulatory conditions, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis/osteopenia, as well as a question for all persons on checking changes in freckles and moles. It excludes actions previously described in this user guide.


Methodology

Respondents were asked about the following condition-specific actions:
  • persons with current asthma - whether has a written asthma plan and number and frequency of visits to hospital;
  • persons with heart or circulatory conditions - cholesterol and blood pressure checks;
  • persons with diabetes - whether screened for diabetes in last three years, whether had days of reduced activity in the last 12 months, frequency of blood glucose and foot checks, whether currently following changed eating patterns/diet, self-management actions, and time since consulted an eye specialist/optometrist;
  • persons with arthritis/osteoporosis/osteopenia - whether bone mineral density tested and other self-management actions taken in the last two weeks; and
  • all persons - whether regular checks for changes in freckles and moles are carried out.

Self-management actions taken for diabetes included losing weight, exercising on most days, taking vitamin or mineral supplements, taking natural or herbal medications and other (unspecified) actions. Self-management actions for arthritis, osteoporosis and osteopenia included doing weight/strength/resistance training, obtaining and/or using physical aids for home or work, water therapy, massage, changing eating patterns/diet, losing weight, exercising on most days and other (unspecified) actions.

Persons with diabetes or high sugar levels were asked whether their diabetes or high sugar levels had interfered with any daily activities other than work, school or study over the last 12 months, but were not asked to specify these.


Population

All persons with the conditions noted above.


Data items

Data items for this topic are linked to specific conditions. The data items and related output categories for each condition are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the downloads tabs of the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001) and the National Health Survey Data Reference Package, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.002).


Interpretation

Points to be considered when interpreting data on other actions taken for selected conditions include the following:
  • Data has been self-reported, so the accuracy of type of actions reported may depend on the respondent's interpretation.
  • Respondents may not accurately remember the timeframe of the actions undertaken.
  • Respondents may have felt pressure to report that they had done what was medically advised rather than what they actually did (e.g. frequency of testing blood glucose level).


Comparability with 2004-05

Certain actions in this topic may be comparable to 2004-05 data, however, most items are new to the 2007-08 NHS. Items that are directly comparable are:
  • Whether currently following changed eating patterns/diet for diabetes/high sugar levels;
  • Actions taken for diabetes/high sugar levels; and
  • Time since consulted an eye specialist/optometrist for persons with diabetes.

Two other items that are considered to be comparable between the two surveys are:
  • Whether has a written asthma action plan; and
  • Self-management actions taken for arthritis/osteoporosis/osteopenia in the last two weeks.

Data for the item 'Whether has a written asthma action plan' may not be directly comparable as question wording differed slightly between the two surveys. In 2004-05, respondents were asked whether they had a written asthma action plan, and if so, whether they got it from a doctor, nurse or chemist, and whether it looked like the asthma action plan shown on a prompt card. In 2007-08, respondents were only asked whether they had a written asthma action plan, and an explanation of this plan was included in the question.

Data for self-management actions taken for arthritis/osteoporosis/osteopenia in the last two weeks may not be directly comparable to 2004-05, as question wording and methodology differed between the two surveys. In 2004-05, respondents were asked to indicate actions taken separately for arthritis and osteoporosis. The actions prompt card also included whether they had seen a GP or specialist. In 2007-08, respondents were asked GP, specialist and actions questions for arthritis and osteoporosis/osteopenia combined.


PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE

Definition

Private health insurance is cover additional to that provided under Medicare, offered by private health organisations registered under the National Health Act to reimburse all or part of the cost of hospital and/or ancillary services.

Information was obtained about the private health insurance arrangements current at the time of the survey. Cover provided or arranged through employers was included. Ambulance only cover, and cover arranged under Veteran's Affairs or other government health benefits cards, was excluded.


Methodology

Respondents were asked if they were currently covered by private health insurance, and if so, the type of cover and type of membership they had, the reasons they had cover, and how long they had been covered. Respondents without current private health insurance were asked the reasons why they did not have cover. As more than one reason was able to be collected in both the 'reasons' questions, interviewers were encouraged to prompt respondents (e.g. 'Are there any other reasons?') to ensure that as much information as possible was recorded.

Type of cover refers to whether persons were covered for hospital expenses, expenses for ancillary services, or both hospital and ancillary expenses.

Private insurance for hospital expenses provides cover for the costs of accommodation in private hospitals and private accommodation in public hospitals. Ancillary cover includes services such as dental, physiotherapy, optical and acupuncture. The range of services and the level of cover provided for each service may vary.

Type of membership refers to whether the respondent was covered under a family, couple, sole parent or single person membership.


Population

All persons aged 15 years and over.


Data items

The data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the downloads tabs of the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001) and the National Health Survey Data Reference Package, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.002).


Interpretation

Points to consider in interpreting data for this topic include the following:
  • While efforts are made to ensure that only legitimate private health insurance was reported, some respondents may have reported life, accident or other forms of insurance.
  • Overall results from this survey show average reported insurance levels in 2007-08, and reflect people's perception of their insurance cover which may not correspond to their actual cover. As a result the data from this topic are not directly comparable with statistics on health insurance levels compiled from fund membership information and published quarterly by the Private Health Insurance Administration Council.
  • Depending on the person in the household chosen as the selected adult, respondents may have been unaware of their coverage/or lack of coverage under another person's (e.g. a parent's) private health insurance.
  • The type of insurance held is only available at the very broad level of hospital only, ancillary only, both hospital and ancillary. Within each of these categories, the actual type and level of cover provided can differ significantly. This needs to be borne in mind when aggregating these data for population groups.
  • The length of time insured relates to the current episode of insurance. Previous periods of insurance which have lapsed or been terminated are excluded. In addition, the item relates simply to the period insured, and does not necessarily refer to the type of cover or membership currently reported.


Comparability with 2004-05

Questions asked in the 2007-8 NHS were identical with those in the 2004-05 NHS except for a slight wording change in the first question (from 'Are you currently covered by private health insurance?' to 'Do you have private health insurance?'), and therefore the data are considered directly comparable.


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