This chapter provides information on various aspects of the health of the Australian population and the activities of government and other bodies relating to health. The chapter uses data from the most up-to-date sources available, including the 1995 National Health Survey. Results for Indigenous people from the survey are provided in this chapter only for non-remote areas, because of concerns about the quality of the data for remote areas. The chapter also includes information on disability and long-term health conditions obtained from the 1998 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.
The Australian health care system comprises a diversity of arrangements for planning, funding and delivering health services which feature a mix of private and public sector involvement. At the national level, health services in Australia are administered by the Commonwealth Government, through two ministers appointed to the portfolio of Health and Aged Care.
The Minister for Health and Aged Care has overall responsibility for the portfolio and has specific responsibility for Medicare benefits, hospitals, the private health industry, medical workforce issues, public health, health research, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues, Commonwealth-State relationships and the Health Insurance Commission. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Aged Care provides administrative assistance to the Minister and has specific responsibility for the Therapeutic Goods Administration, administrative aspects of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, Health Services Australia, and general support for Aboriginal health in Northern Australia.
The Minister for Aged Care has specific responsibility for aged care services and Australian Hearing Services.
Health services for veterans and their dependants are the responsibility of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs.
The State and Territory Governments are heavily involved in the direct provision of health services, including hospitals, public health and mental health. Each State or Territory Government has a minister who is responsible for the administration of its health authorities. In some States/Territories, the responsibility for health services is shared by several authorities, while in others one authority is responsible for all health functions.
Local governments and non-government organisations (both non-profit and for profit) are also involved in the direct provision of health services. Private, non-salaried practitioners provide most medical and dental care, and some other professional medical and allied health services such as physiotherapy.
Under the National Health Information Agreement, to which the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, and the various State and Territory health authorities are signatories, the National Health Information Development Plan sets out agreed national priorities for health information to be considered by the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council. This work is managed by the National Health Information Management Group.
In 1996, the Commonwealth Government and the State and Territory Governments established a National Public Health Partnership (NPHP), a collaborative arrangement to improve the health status of Australians, in particular those population groups most at risk, in recognition of the need for a national approach to public health and health promotion.