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CONSULTATION – IDENTIFYING STAKEHOLDERS' NEEDS

In designing the AHS, it was important to understand the information requirements of a range of stakeholders. To facilitate this, the ABS and the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) conducted a number of public consultation sessions, briefings and meetings around the country with various officials, researchers and agencies in the second half of 2010 and early 2011. Specific briefings were also conducted with key agencies: for example, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), DoHA, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and state and territory Health Departments. These sessions were intended to not only capture the needs of potential data users, but to raise awareness of the survey, its content and design. Over 700 people attended the sessions.

At the end of these sessions participants were specifically invited to comment on:

  • What research questions/themes might you wish to pursue from this survey?
  • What sorts of data would you need to meet those questions?
  • Are there particular types of combinations of output data that you need and in what format? e.g. tables, unit records, data cubes, etc;
  • What areas of information might you wish to form a partnership with the ABS to undertake detailed research?
  • What areas should the ABS concentrate on getting out early in its information releases?
  • How useful have the Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) been for your previous analyses of the NHS/NATSIHS and how might these experiences inform the construction of the AHS CURFs?
  • How useful have the previous NHS/NATSIHS publications been?

Feedback from these sessions was very positive with strong interest and support particularly in relation to the new elements of the AHS. The feedback in relation to the key questions on the previous utility of the NHS outputs was high level and generic in nature. While there were few specific comments about the design, format or approach, there were some comments regarding comparability, category cut points and timeliness. As a result of these consultations, the ABS received several written submissions from interested parties.

In addition to the public seminars, several specialist technical advisory groups have supported the development of different aspects of the survey. These groups have provided advice in relation to the biomedical, nutrition, physical activity and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aspects of the survey. These groups not only contain specialists in their respective fields, but also represent a range of specialist data users.

A Data Users Advisory Group (DUAG) has also been formed to assist ABS in developing this output strategy. Their role will be to review this initial strategy, review feedback from stakeholders on the strategy post public consultation, and provide advice to the ABS on approaches and priorities for data outputs.

KEY STAKEHOLDERS AND THEIR NEEDS

There are a wide range of stakeholders who have been identified in the development of the AHS. These stakeholders are identified in the joint ABS/DoHA communications strategy for the AHS. The AHS will provide an evidence base for activities undertaken by various government departments, and AHS data will be used to meet requirements to submit Australian health data to international agencies (such as the WHO and OECD) for inclusion on comparative reports of health status for different regions in the world. The key stakeholder groups described below each have a moderately well-defined set of requirements that need to be met from the survey outputs, which need to be taken into account early in the planning process.

Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA)

As both primary funder and major user of the survey, DoHA has identified a number of objectives and reporting requirements for the survey. The survey has been designed primarily to meet these objectives, and provide data outputs that support these requirements. Details of these are outlined in a paper published by DoHA on the AHS (AHS: rationale for expanding the National Health Survey series).

Recommendations for the Output Strategy reflect commitments made in the Memorandum of Understanding with DoHA, as stated below:
    The ABS on consultation and agreement of DoHA’s information requirements will produce an output strategy document that will identify policy and research questions and themes, including provisions for partnership arrangements where appropriate. The document will identify data release mechanisms (e.g. CURF, publication, journal) and analysis methods (tabulations, multivariate analyses) by which information requirements can be addressed by ABS, by partners and other stakeholders. In constructing this output strategy ABS will:
    (a) consult DoHA, the AHS Reference Group and other stakeholders to identify their information needs from high level issues to lower level table requirements and data element management. It is acknowledged that ABS will have final control and responsibility for outputs; and

    (b) consult with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council in meeting reporting requirements and timelines supported by AHS components in the 2013 and 2014 reporting rounds for the National Healthcare Agreement.
COAG Reform Council (CRC) and Productivity Commission (PC)

The information collected in the AHS will be directly used to meet government requirements to report on specific indicators of progress and performance benchmarks relating to the National Healthcare Agreement (NHA), the 2008 National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health (NPAPH) and the 2009 National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes (under the 2008 Closing the Gap: National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA)). This reporting occurs via the agreed COAG process for submitting data for national and state/territory governments (for further details see: AHS: rationale for expanding the National Health Survey series).

The agency with primary carriage of assessing data submitted for the NHA, NPAPH and the NIRA is the CRC which has provided some commentary around their reporting needs (COAG 2008, 2009a, 2009b, 2010, 2011).

The PC coordinates the Report on Government Services (RoGS), which draws data from the latest NHS/NATSIHS. It is anticipated that the AHS will also be used for this purpose with the potential for reporting across a wider range of issues. The PC undertakes studies of health related issues periodically for which they may use AHS data on an ad hoc basis.

Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA)

AHS data will provide an evidence base for activities to be undertaken by the ANPHA, which will focus primarily on obesity, tobacco and alcohol issues. It is expected that ANPHA will utilise data that identify and describe health risk issues, potential health interventions and the relationships between health and key risk factors.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)

The AIHW regularly reports across a wide range of health related topics. It has responsibility for reporting to the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council and COAG on the National Health Performance Framework via the biennial publications Australia's Health, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (AIHW 2010, 2008). Its numerous analytical publications draw on data from the NHS/NATSIHS, and it will extend this work to the AHS.

State and territory Health Departments and monitoring authorities

Jurisdictional reporting on a range of health elements has been a critical requirement that has been taken into account in designing the AHS. States and territories not only contribute to COAG and RoGS reporting arrangements, but have their own policies and programs to develop, monitor and evaluate, as well as comparing and contrasting themselves to better understand their own population health issues. Outputs from the survey need to be produced in a manner that provides robust and reliable information in a readily accessible form.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)

FSANZ has a responsibility to develop food standards for Australia and New Zealand and monitor the safety of the food supply in Australia. It does this through consultation with key stakeholders such as the food industry, researchers, consumers and government departments at the international, national and state/territory levels. It reports these outcomes through a range of reports and articles, and provides advice to the public, the Commonwealth, state and territory Health Departments, and to other agencies. As part of the risk analysis process undertaken by FSANZ to assess the impact of proposed changes to the food regulatory system on population health, data on foods consumed are used to estimate nutrient intakes or dietary exposure to different food chemicals for Australian and New Zealand populations. This dietary information will be derived for the Australian population from the AHS in the future.

National Health Performance Authority (NHPA)

The NHPA will be focused on data available at a smaller geographical level than that generally reported from national health surveys such as the AHS, but the potential to use AHS data to meet specific reporting requirements around Medicare Locals and to a lesser degree Local Hospital Networks will be explored.

National Heart Foundation of Australia

The Heart Foundation has provided funding for the National Nutrition and Physical Activity component of the 2011-13 AHS. The Foundation facilitates and funds research into cardiovascular disease. The Foundation provides information to the public and the media on public health topics such as prevention, cardiovascular disease impact, the cost of disease and mortality patterns in the general and Indigenous populations. The Foundation uses the information to underpin the case for support services. This information is also used to inform health promotion campaigns.
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