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Newsletters - Health and Disability Statistics News - No 2, September 2005



The Review of Strategic Statistical Issues for Future National Health Surveys has been underway since late 2004. The purpose of the Review is to ensure the continued relevance of the ABS program of health surveys, given the increased frequency of the National Health Survey and emerging data needs. Twelve discussion papers have been prepared and released to users via the online discussion forum so far:
  • Disability
  • Cancer
  • Physical activity
  • Mental health
  • Health services and medication
  • Asthma
  • Nutrition
  • Private health insurance
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Physical measurements
  • Diabetes
  • Injury

Discussion papers on Alcohol and tobacco, and Arthritis, are expected to be released shortly. Following the preparation of the papers, and consultation with the Health Statistics Advisory Group, various government departments, non-government organisations and other subject matter experts, a number of proposals have been prepared. Consideration of options will continue until November, when the content of the 2007-08 National Health Survey will be finalised.


The Health Statistics Advisory Group (HSAG) is a representation of key organisations who are users of ABS health data. The group advises the ABS on health statistics developments and priorities along with the content for the ABS's health survey program. HSAG met on 31 August 2005. Agenda items included the dissemination strategy for the 2004-05 and future National Health Surveys; the Review of Strategic Issues for Future National health Surveys; and other current ABS activity.


The Health Statistics Online Discussion Forum is now available and is an effective way of providing information to users and providing feedback to the ABS. The Forum has provided an opportunity for documents circulated by the Health and Disability Section to be available in a readily accessible location and for a 'conversation' to take place on a topic with others in their field. The Forum may be viewed at

For further information:
Contact: Emma Cooper on (02) 6252 7354


The fieldwork for the 2004-05 NHS and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) was completed in early July 2005. The surveys collected information on health status, risk factors, health related actions and demography
from approximately 21,500 households (16,800 for the NHS and 4,700 for the NATSIHS).

National Health Survey
Processing and validation of the NHS is progressing to schedule. The summary publication for the NHS is expected to be released in February and unit record file in April 2006. The 2004-05 NHS dissemination strategy was discussed at the HSAG meeting in August 2005. The summary publication is expected to be similar to that released for the 2001 NHS, and State and Territory summary tables will be released in conjunction with the publication.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey
Processing and validation of the NATSIHS is progressing to schedule. In conjunction with the NHS summary publication, a publication for the NATSIHS will be released in February 2006. An important component of the 2004-05 NATSIHS publication will be the presentation of data for Indigenous peoples broken down by remote and non-remote areas. Many of the tables will also present comparisons with the non-Indigenous population as well as with previous Indigenous health surveys conducted by the ABS in 1995 and 2001. At the same time as the release of the national 2004-05 NATSIHS publication, a summary booklet, highlighting the key findings from the survey, will be prepared for wide distribution to Indigenous communities, community organisations and schools. A Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) is expected to be released in April 2006 to provide access to the survey's unit record information.


The ABS is expecting to conduct a second national Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (SMHWB) in the second half of 2007, with the support of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. The first survey, which the ABS conducted in 1997, was used to gather baseline information about the prevalence of mental illness in Australia. It is proposed that the World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview be used as the basis for the 2007 survey interview and that the proposed content of the survey be finalised by around the end of this year. All major stakeholders including consumers, carers, service providers and the Australian Government have agreed that a second National SMHWB is a major priority. Information from the second survey will be crucial to the creation of the new National Mental Health Strategy to be developed by State health departments and the Australian Government.


There have been a number of Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) releases since the release of the SDAC: Summary of Findings, 2003 (cat. no. 4430.0) in September 2004. A further set of tables on carers, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Caring in the Community, Tables 17 to 24 (cat. no. 4430.0.55.004), was released in May 2005. These can be accessed from the ABS web site, under the "datacubes" category.

The ABS' annual social issues compendium, Australian Social Trends (cat. no. 4102.0) was released in July 2005. It contains three articles using SDAC data covering the following topics:
The Disability, Ageing and Carers Confidentialised Unit Record File 2003 (cat. no. 4430.0.30.002) and Information Paper (cat. no. 4430.0.00.001) were re-issued on 22 July 2005 to correct some mislabelled file level identifiers and an incorrect data item category label.


A new edition of
Suicides: Recent Trends, Australia (cat. no. 3309.0.55.001) is scheduled for release in December 2005.

Drawing on data from the ABS Causes of Death collection, this electronic publication will offer summary statistics about suicides registered in Australia in 2004, the latest year for which mortality data will be available. Information for the years 1994 to 2004 will be shown for comparison. Data will be presented separately by sex and age group, including numbers of suicides, age-specific rates and standardised death rates. Details of method of suicide and state or territory of usual residence will also be included.


The ABS has been involved since 2001 in international efforts to develop both core and expanded question sets for the collection of data related to disability. The Washington Group (WG) on disability statistics has now proposed a short core question set for testing, and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission in the Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) and World Health Organisation (WHO) have arranged a series of training sessions in Bangkok for countries in the Asia Pacific region. Twenty countries were represented at the initial workshops. The ABS has been instrumental in developing the training manual, assisting in the training presentations and associated discussions.

Five countries have been funded to undertake initial field testing of the WG question set, which includes translation/back-translation, retest and cognitive protocols. For comparative and analytical purposes, the WHODASII and ABS Census 'Core activity need for assistance' questions are also included alongside the proposed WG questions. The ABS provided a representative, Ken Black, to assist two of these countries - Fiji and India - with their interviewer training. Ken assisted in reviewing the agreed procedures and also helped evaluate the sample selection and data entry procedures, which are based on the Bangkok training and agreed country testing implementation plans. It is intended that the data will be sent to WHO for collation and analysis, with preliminary results available for the WG meeting to be held in Brazil in September 2005.


The ABS is a member of a task force which is working to develop a common approach to the measurement of health status. This task force was formed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Eurostat and includes representatives from these agencies and relevant statistical agencies in a number of European countries, the US, Canada and New Zealand.

The group has been working to identify a number of domains for measurement (e.g. mobility, dexterity, vision, hearing, etc.) and within them specific questions which could be used. Once agreed, these questions will be tested by a range of countries to assess their suitability for measurement in an international context.


The Health and Disability Section is represented on the Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing Technical Reference Group (CATI TRG), which is a forum for the development and promotion of national standards and methods for CATI health surveys. Together with representatives from the Department of Health and Ageing, State and Territory health departments, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Public Health Information Development Unit, we progress work to develop standard health-related questions and procedures across all Australian jurisdictions.

The ABS undertakes work on the modular development component of the project, which involves coordinating testing of question modules through cognitive testing and field testing, compiling module manuals on various health topics and preparing submissions to the Heath Data Standards Committee (HDSC). In recent months, the ABS' work has focused on cognitive testing of asthma, nutrition and education questions; developing metadata for inclusion in the National Health Data Dictionary (NHDD); writing a scoping paper about psychosocial factors affecting health; participating in the August CATI TRG meeting in Darwin; and finalising manuals on various topics. A major achievement was having a set of CATI demographic items endorsed as standards for inclusion on the NHDD.



1338.0New South Wales in Focus
1344.8.55.001ACT Stats
1345.4SA Stats
1383.0.55.001Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators 2005
4102.0Australian Social Trends
4390.0Private Hospitals, Australia
4409.3Ageing Well, Queensland
4430.0.00.001 (Re-issue)Information Paper: Basic Confidentialised Unit Record File: 2003 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, 2003 (Re-issue), Electronic delivery
4430.0.30.002 (Re-issue)Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, Basic Confidentialised Unit Record File, 2003 (Re-issue), CD-ROM
4430.0.55.004Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Caring in the Community, Tables 17 to 24, Data Cubes - Excel Spreadsheet

These and all publications are available from ABS book shops in each capital city:

ABS Book ShopTelephone No.
Canberra:(02) 6252 6627
Adelaide:(08) 8237 7582
Sydney:1300 135 070
Hobart:(03) 6222 5811
Darwin:(08) 8943 2110
Melbourne:(03) 9615 7367 or (03) 9615 7998
Brisbane:(07) 3222 6350
Perth:(08) 9360 5360

Alternatively all ABS publications are available through the National Mail Order Service on (02) 6252 5249 or the Subscription Service on 1300 366 323 or by email: Publications are also available on the ABS web site.


QUT 'Understanding Mortality Data' Workshop, 21-22 November 2005, Brisbane

The 'Understanding Mortality Data' workshop is a part of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) School of Public Health 10th International Health Summer School and focuses on contemporary issues relating to the collection, collation, dissemination and uses of mortality data in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region. The workshop is to be held at QUT's Kelvin Grove campus in Brisbane on 21-22 November 2005.

The full program is currently being developed by members of the Leadership Committee of the Australasian Mortality Data Interest Group (AMDIG) and sessions will include research presentations, updates of the AMDIG Working Group activities and open discussion on key issues related to facilitating the production of high quality mortality data.

The workshop will provide a forum for discussion and debate on issues relevant to key stakeholder organisations and individuals responsible for the collection, collation, dissemination and analysis of mortality data.

For further information:
Contact: Garry Waller at QUT on (07) 3864 5876

AIHW Aus Welfare Conference, 30 November 2005, Canberra

Register your interest for the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's (AIHW) Australia’s Welfare Conference 2005, ‘Connected Challenges, Connecting Response’, taking place on Wednesday 30 November at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

This one day conference incorporates the launch of Australia’s premier welfare publication Australia’s Welfare 2005 and presentations from renowned welfare and community services professionals including Dr Jeff Harmer, Secretary, Department of Family and Community Services; Dr Ian Winter, Executive Director, Australian Institute and Urban Research Institute; and Mr Andrew McCallum, President, Australian Council for Social Research.

For further information:
Contact: Anna Stark at the AIHW on (02) 6244 1287


The ABS received additional funding in the May Budget to enable provision of free publications on the web.
    From 1 July 2005, the range of free content on the ABS web site which was previously limited to "Main Features" for most statistical releases was expanded to include electronic publications (PDF and HTML based content); electronic "publication tables", i.e. tables in spreadsheet or data-cube format which otherwise would have been included in a printed/PDF publication; and in particular electronic State/Territory "publication tables" that complement national "publication tables".
      Additional data including most, if not all, remaining priced standard products (i.e. time series spreadsheets, other spreadsheets and data-cubes) is also under consideration as free-on-the-web content which may become available from 1 January 2006.
        Inquiries regarding these changes can be made to the ABS's National Information Referral Service (phone 1300 135 070 or e-mail


        For further information:
        Contact: the National Information Referral Service on 1300 135 070


        Health and Disability Statistics News
        is published by the ABS Health and Disability Section, Canberra and is available to interested individuals or organisations.

        If you or your organisation would like to be placed on the Health and Disability Statistics Newsletter mailing list, please contact Saul Flaxman (contact details shown below) and provide your email address.

        Published by:

        Australian Bureau of Statistics
        Health and Disability Section
        Locked Bag 10
        BELCONNEN ACT 2616

        Saul Flaxman (02) 6252 5782


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