Anaemia is caused by a decrease in either the number of red blood cells in the body or the quantity of haemoglobin (Hb) within red blood cells. When a person is anaemic, their heart has to work harder to ensure that muscles and organs get the oxygen they need. Hb is a protein found in red blood cells. It contains a large amount of iron and helps transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.1 The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey (NATSIHMS) measured the concentration of Hb in the blood, which can help diagnose anaemia.
The Hb test measures the amount of Hb circulating in the blood at the time of the test.
Hb results were obtained for selected persons aged 18 years and over, who agreed to participate in the NATSIHMS and who provided a blood sample. Fasting was not required for this test.
A blood sample was collected from participants and Hb levels were measured at the Douglass Hanly Moir (DHM) laboratory.
Abnormal levels of Hb indicating a risk of anaemia are defined differently for males and females, young people, and pregnant women. In the NATSIHMS, cut off reference values for normal and abnormal (at risk of anaemia) results were sourced from the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.2 These guidelines are based on epidemiological data and publications of major clinical trials.
In the NATSIHMS, the following definitions were used for whole blood Hb (anaemia):
Cut off points for Anaemia (Hb) for females in the NATSIHMS
|Hb levels for non-pregnant females|
|Hb levels for pregnant females|
|At risk of anaemia||<120||<110|
Cut off points for Anaemia (Hb) for males in the NATSIHMS
|Hb levels for males|
|At risk of anaemia||<130|
Further test information about the analysis method and machine used to measure Hb levels is available in Excel spreadsheet format in the Downloads
page of this product.
The data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads
page of this product.
Points to be considered when interpreting data for this topic include the following:
Comparability with other surveys
- Hb results do not confirm a specific diagnosis without consultation with a health professional.
- There are a number of different test methods for measuring Hb, which may produce different results. The data from this topic should therefore be used with caution when comparing Hb results from other studies using a different test method or equation.
The NATSIHMS is the first ABS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survey to collect biomedical information. Given it was also the first national level survey (ABS or otherwise) to collect such data for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, no comparisons with previous surveys for this population are possible.
However, biomedical data was also collected for all Australians in the 2011-12 National Health Measures Survey (NHMS) and information about comparisons between the NHMS results and those of non-ABS surveys is available from the Comparisons with other Australian surveys
section of the Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011-12
Gibson RS 2005, Principles of Nutritional Assessment
, 2nd ed, New York: Oxford University Press.
World Health Organization (WHO) 2011, Haemoglobin concentrations for the diagnosis of anaemia and assessment of severity
, Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition Information System, <http://www.who.int/vmnis/indicators/haemoglobin/en/
>, Last accessed 08/09/2014.