Health and Community Services Ministerial Council (HCSMC)
The HCSMC was formed in 1993 by a decision of the Council of Australian Governments, bringing together the Australian Health Ministers' Conference (AHMC) and the Community Services Ministers' Conference (CSMC). This combined Council meets as necessary to deal with the wider framework of health and community service issues of interest to members of both AHMC and CSMC.
The AHMC and its advisory body, the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council (AHMAC), provide a mechanism through which the Commonwealth Government, state and territory and New Zealand governments discuss matters of mutual interest concerning health policy, services and programs. Neither the Conference nor the Council has statutory powers, and decisions are reached by consensus.
In 2001-02, health ministers continued to focus on areas such as: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' health; primary health care and aged care; national blood sector requirements; medical indemnity issues; matters associated with safety and quality in Australian health care; and health information management.
The CSMC and its advisory body, the Community Services Ministers' Advisory Council (CSMAC), operates in a similar manner concerning community services, and welfare policy and programs. In addition, Papua New Guinea is invited to participate as an observer.
In 2001-02, the CSMC discussed a wide range of issues such as gambling addiction, services for refugees, support for Indigenous families and communities, aged care and ageing, children's services and young peoples transition to independent living.
Ministers with responsibilities for disability services matters, who are also Members of the HCSMC, meet as necessary to discuss future directions of disability services programs and services.
Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA)
DoHA provides policy advice to the Government and manages Commonwealth government health and ageing programs. The department’s mission is to lead the development of Australia’s health and ageing system.
The department’s vision is for a world class health and aged care system for all Australians. To achieve this vision, the department focuses on the following specific outcomes set by the Government for the Health and Ageing portfolio:
- promotion and protection of the health of all Australians and minimising the incidence of preventable mortality, illness, injury and disability
- access through Medicare to cost-effective medical services, medicines and acute health care for all Australians
- support for healthy ageing for older Australians, and quality and cost-effective care for frail older people and support for their carers
- improved quality, integration and effectiveness of health care
- improved health outcomes for Australians living in regional, rural and remote locations
- reduced consequence of hearing loss for eligible clients and a reduced incidence of hearing loss in the broader community
- improved health status for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- a viable private health insurance industry to improve the choice of health services for Australians
The department works with other stakeholders to provide national coordination of health and ageing services. These stakeholders include consumers, providers, industry groups, professional organisations, and state and territory governments. The department works with its other portfolio agencies to achieve the portfolio outcomes. These agencies include the HIC, the AIHW, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, Australian Hearing Services, Health Services Australia, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority, the Private Health Insurance Administration Council, the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman, the Professional Services Review, and the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency.
The Commonwealth Government appoints two ministers, and a parliamentary secretary, to the portfolio of Health and Ageing. The Minister for Health and Ageing has overall responsibility for the portfolio and has specific responsibility for Medicare benefits, hospitals, medical indemnity, the private health industry, medical workforce issues, the PBS, public health, blood and organ donation, medical research and biotechnology, health research, gene technology, Indigenous health issues, rural and regional health, Commonwealth-state relationships and the HIC. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing has direct carriage of matters relating to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, Health Services Australia and the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service.
The Minister for Ageing has direct carriage of matters relating to strategies for an ageing population, as well as residential aged care, community care, hearing services and human cloning.
Health services for veterans and their dependants are the responsibility of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs in the Defence portfolio.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)
AIHW is a statutory authority within the Commonwealth Health and Ageing portfolio. The Institute's mission is 'To improve the health and well-being of Australians, we inform community discussion and decision making through national leadership in developing and providing health and welfare statistics and information'. The Institute’s main functions relate to the collation and dissemination of information related to health and welfare. The AIHW works closely with the ABS and other agencies which collect data, produce statistics and undertake research and analysis in the health, community services and housing assistance fields.
The AIHW also provides statistical support to the states and territories in the health and welfare areas, primarily through AHMAC, CSMAC and the Housing Ministers’ Advisory Committee, and the national information management groups which report to those advisory groups.
The five collaborating units (contracted with the organisations) extend the scope of the Institute’s expertise and assist the AIHW in performing its functions:
- knowledge, information and training for developing better strategies to improve the health of Australians.
- National Perinatal Statistics Unit (University of New South Wales)
- Dental Statistics and Research Unit (University of Adelaide)
- National Injury Surveillance Unit (Flinders University)
- General Practice Statistics and Classification Unit (University of Sydney)
The Institute’s Board encourages judicious collaboration with suitable organisations to enhance the Institute’s ability to meet its mission. In addition, the AIHW works collaboratively with a range of agencies such as the National Centre for Classification in Health, the Australian Patient Safety Foundation and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases.
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
The NHMRC plays a major role in supporting the implementation of the Commonwealth's investment in health through its support for research, and makes an important contribution to improved public health and safety outcomes through the dissemination of authoritative health advice.
The NHMRC is a statutory body within the Health and Ageing portfolio with principal responsibility for advising the Australian community and the Commonwealth Government, state and territory governments on standards of individual and public health, and supporting research and research training to improve those standards. The NHMRC's work involves a large number of committees that draw on Australia's leading academics and researchers as well as representatives from professional and scientific organisations, welfare, business and consumer groups and government.
The 29 members of Council are appointed by the Minister for Health and Ageing every three years, with the present triennium ending in 2003. The members are appointed under categories defined by the legislation, including expertise in fields of health, medicine and medical research, nominees of Commonwealth, state and territory health authorities and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, and the Chief Executive Officer.
While the staff of the NHMRC report to an independent Chief Executive Officer, appointed by the Minister for Health and Ageing, they are also members of staff of the DoHA.
Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA)
The CDNA is the national coordinating body for the public health management of communicable diseases. CDNA's terms of reference are:
- Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring (University of New South Wales).
- to promote best practice management of communicable diseases
- to develop and coordinate national surveillance programs for communicable diseases
- to provide policy advice on the control of communicable diseases
- to support and strengthen training and capacity building in the communicable disease field
- to provide a resource for the investigation and control of outbreaks of communicable disease
CDNA holds regular fortnightly teleconferences to exchange information on recent developments in the field, coordinate responses and develop policy.
Disease registries exist for a range of diseases and medical procedures in Australia. The general aim is to compile a database of all cases (within a given time and place) of a particular disease. These data can be used for research, providing clinical services, developing and evaluating health prevention/intervention policies and for administration purposes. Some of the major national disease registries include:
- to liaise and support other communicable disease control agencies and programs in the region.
- Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR) - the HIC collects immunisation data to provide comprehensive information on the immunisation status of all children under seven years of age living in Australia. ACIR enables parents and health care providers to check on a child's immunisation status. The Register is also used to monitor immunisation coverage levels, service delivery and disease outbreaks, http://www1.hic.gov.au/general/acircirghome.
- Australian Spinal Cord Injury Register - enables patterns and trends of spinal cord injury (SCI) to be monitored, and provides an opportunity to conduct survival studies on people with SCI.
- Cancer Registries - cancer is a notifiable disease in all states and territories of Australia. To maintain a national dataset, the National Cancer Statistics Clearing House at the AIHW receives incidence data from individual state and territory cancer registries on all cancers diagnosed among Australian residents, http://www.aihw.gov.au/cancer/ncsch/.
- National Diabetes Register - based at the AIHW, provides statistics on diabetics who use insulin. The information is collected from records of people using the National Diabetic Services Scheme and the state-based registers of the Australian Paediatric Endocrine Group.
- National Cardiac Surgery Register and National Coronary Angioplasty Register - a joint project between the National Heart Foundation of Australia and the AIHW. The National Cardiac Surgery Register contains annual data on the number of heart surgery procedures and associated deaths from cardiac surgery units around Australia. The National Coronary Angioplasty Register contains information on coronary angioplasty procedures, indications, associated complications, lesion location, success rates and adjunctive techniques such as stenting, from cardiac catheterisation units around Australia.
- National Register of Pregnancies After Assisted Conception - contains data from all in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) centres performing IVF, gamete intrafallopian transfer and related procedures in Australia and New Zealand.