4363.0 - National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2017-18  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/2019   
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This document was added or updated on 28/05/2019.

Geospatial information


This topic refers to geospatial data derived for the 2017-18 NHS using residential address information. These items are intended to be used in combination with health risk factors and conditions to assess the impact of neighbourhood environments on health outcomes for individuals.

For the first time NHS includes:

    • Area (hectares) of public open space within 400, 1000 & 1500 metres
    • Area (hectares) of public open space greater than 1 hectare within 400, 1000 & 1500 metres
    • Population density
    • Count of supermarkets within 400, 1000 & 1500 metres
    • Count of fast food outlets within 400, 1000 & 1500 metres
    • Count of amenities within 400, 1000 & 1500 metres
    • Mean and median commuting distance (kms)


Information was obtained for all households in the 2017-18 NHS.


The geospatial items in the NHS were calculated using a Geographic Information System (GIS) from existing datasets acquired from the Public Service Mapping Agency Australia (PSMA) (public open space) and HERE Technology (counts of businesses) as well as datasets held by the ABS. As some data items have been calculated from data sources outside of the ABS, users may wish to contact these data providers for more information on data attributes and quality.

Network service areas

A service area is the area in which a person's access to services is measured. Typically, these areas are simply calculated using a straight line buffer distance around a point (e.g. the longitude/latitude associated with an address). However, further refinement to the service area can be provided by measuring the distance along the road network, in order to more truly reflect plausible travel routes. A ‘network service area’ is a region that encompasses all accessible streets within a certain travel distance. Address-based network service areas were created for all households within the NHS using ESRI ArcGIS Network Analyst tools to process the road network from HERE Technology. This created network service areas at three distance thresholds: 400 metres, 1000 metres and 1500 metres.

Area (hectares) of public open space

The definition of public open space is a combination of PSMA Australia Urban Parks (2018) and National Parks (2018) from the Transport and Topography dataset. This data item is representative of the total known area of public open space which is accessible within the calculated network service areas by road network. This analysis has been applied to all public open space across Australia, and then repeated using all public open space greater than 1 hectare. The second method removed smaller public open spaces (for example “pocket parks”). Though these smaller parks may function as destinations to walk to, they may provide less opportunity for physical activity at the park itself. Both methods were used in NHS 2017-18.

The public open space data has been validated in urban areas. It is recommended that analysis of this dataset excludes remote and very remote areas using the ABS Remoteness Areas geography.

Counts of supermarkets, major fast food outlets and amenities

Counts of major supermarkets, major fast food chains and amenities within a service area were derived from 2018 mapdata services HERE Technology-Place of Interest data layer, and calculated by road network. Service areas were overlaid with points representing these locations using ArcGIS. Independent supermarkets and fast food providers will not be represented in these counts. Amenities include libraries, retail, hospitality, petrol stations or entertainment venues which an individual may access and which may function as local destinations of interest that an individual may walk to.

The count of supermarkets was based on the locations of the following supermarket chains:
    • ALDI
    • Coles
    • Foodland
    • Foodworks
    • Franklins
    • Fresh Market
    • Friendly Grocer
    • IGA
    • Safeway
    • Woolworths

The count of fast food outlets was based on the locations of the following fast food chains:
    • Crust Pizza
    • Chicken Treat
    • Domino's
    • Donut King
    • Eagle Boys Pizza
    • KFC
    • Hungry Jack's
    • McCafe
    • McDonald's
    • Nando's
    • Noodle Box
    • Oporto
    • Pizza Capers
    • Pizza Haven
    • Pizza Hut
    • Red Rooster
    • Subway
    • Wendy's

Population density

The population density measures population per square metre and was calculated by spatially intersecting the longitude/latitude associated with all household addresses in the NHS with the Australian Population Grid 2017 published in Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2016-17 (cat. no. 3218.0). This grid represents population density at 1 km2 cells across Australia.

Mean and median commuting distance (kms)

The commuting distance (distance to work) data provides a measurement of distance travelled between a person's place of usual residence and place of work. Mean and median commuting distance has been calculated based on where people lived for all Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1s) in Australia. This data was spatially intersected with all household addresses in the NHS. The distance was calculated on commuting distances based on the assumption that a person has followed the shortest road network path, or where this was not possible a straight line distance, with no stops when commuting to work. More information on the commuting distance calculations can be found in the Census of Population and Housing: Commuting to Work - More Stories from the Census, 2016 (cat. no. 2071.0.55.001) publication.

Data items

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 in interpreting this topic include the following:
    • When analysing public open space data it is recommended that analysis of this dataset excludes ”Remote” and “Very Remote” Australia, due to quality concerns. For further information about data quality contact Public Service Mapping Agency Australia.
    • Information on supermarkets and fast food outlets excludes smaller independently owned and non-franchised businesses (e.g. fish and chip shop or general store), and may under-represent access to these facilities in some areas.

Comparability with 2014-15

In 2014-15 the calculation of public open space was included in the survey however this was calculated using a different methodology, and is not comparable. The previous method presented an indicator (yes or no) if each household was with 400 metres of a public open space, while the new method represents the total area (hectares) of public open space accessible within three distance thresholds.

The count of supermarkets, fast food outlets and amenities was not provided in 2014-15 NHS.