4363.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: Users' Guide - Electronic Publication, 2007-08  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/09/2009   
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This document was added or updated on 17/09/2009.


This publication presents information about the National Health Survey (NHS) conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2007-08. It includes information about the NHS objectives, the way the survey was developed, the survey concepts and methods, procedures used in the collection of data and derivation of estimates, and the quality, interpretation and availability of survey results.

The aim of this publication is to provide information to assist users of the data in better understanding both the nature of the survey, and its potential and shortcomings in meeting their data needs. Further information about the survey is available from the ABS web site (www.abs.gov.au), including:

Other information may be added to the web site over time as it becomes available. Summary level results of the 2007-08 NHS are contained in the publication National Health Survey: Summary of Results, 2007-08 (Reissue) (cat. no. 4364.0). Similar data for the States and the Australian Capital Territory are contained in the publication National Health Survey: Summary of Results; State Tables (Reissue) (cat. no. 4362.0). Both publications were released in May 2009 and re-issued in August 2009.

Background to the survey

The 2007-08 NHS was conducted during the 11 month period August 2007 to July 2008. It is the fifth in a series of regular population surveys designed to obtain national benchmark information on a range of health related issues and to enable the monitoring of trends in health over time.

Previous surveys in the series were conducted in 1989-90, 1995, 2001 and 2004-05. Commencing with the 2001 survey, the survey is now conducted 3 yearly. Health surveys conducted by the ABS in 1977-78 and 1983, while not part of the NHS series, also collected similar information. In addition, a range of other ABS surveys on health and related issues have been conducted at the national level and for individual States and Territories. Indigenous health issues are specifically covered in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS), 2004-05, (cat. no. 4715.0).

The 2007-08 NHS was conducted in 15,792 private dwellings selected throughout non-very remote areas of Australia. The sample design ensured that within each State or Territory, each person had an equal chance of selection. Information was obtained about one adult and one child aged 0 to 17 years in each selected household. A total of 20,788 persons participated in the survey.

Trained ABS interviewers personally interviewed the selected adult member of the household. While parental consent to interview persons aged 15 to 17 years was not specifically sought, some parents preferred to answer the survey questions on their behalf. A parent or guardian was asked to answer questions on behalf of all children aged less than 15 years. This person is referred to as the child proxy throughout this publication, and in other outputs from the survey.

Although the survey was conducted over 11 months, selected households were interviewed only once in that period.

The survey focused on the health status of Australians and health-related aspects of their lifestyle. Information was collected about respondents' long-term medical conditions, consultations with health professionals, and other actions recently taken in regard to their health (e.g. taken days away from work, used medication). Information was also collected on lifestyle factors which may affect health, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and exercise. Respondents' physical measurements were taken for the first time in the 2007-08 NHS. Medical records were not required, and no medical tests were taken as part of the survey.

The survey design enables information for all topics to be analysed in relation to other topics, and in relation to a range of demographic and socio-economic characteristics.

The Health Statistic Advisory Group (HSAG), comprising representatives of DoHA, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, State and Territory health authorities, and academic and research centres, was established to assist the ABS in the ongoing consultation process, and advise on prioritised data requirements. Reports on the development and testing process were prepared for consideration by the group, and distributed to other interested organisations and individuals on request.

The range of topics and items within topics identified for possible inclusion in the survey by the HSAG exceeded the capacity of the survey. With the assistance of the HSAG, all topics identified were assessed, and relative priorities were established. Topics ultimately selected for inclusion in the survey were those identified as being of highest priority, and which could be appropriately addressed in an ABS household survey of this type.

New topics proposed for inclusion in the 2007-08 NHS underwent cognitive testing to ensure the concepts were understood by respondents, and to enable questions and associated procedures to be refined. A pilot test of the survey was conducted in Western Australia and South Australia in November/December 2006, and a dress rehearsal was conducted in Victoria and South Australia in April/May 2007.

The 2007-08 NHS was conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The ABS sought the willing cooperation of households in the survey. The confidentiality of all information provided by respondents is guaranteed. Under its legislation the ABS cannot release identifiable information about households or individuals. All aspects of NHS implementation were designed to conform to the Information Privacy Principles set out in the Privacy Act 1988, and the Privacy Commissioner was informed of the details of the proposed survey.

The success of the 2007-08 NHS was dependent on the high level of cooperation received from the community. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the range of health and other statistics published by the ABS would not be possible.