Policy report
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Better Data for Better Decisions is a sequential report to the policy roadmap Getting Australia’s Health on Track.

The Australian Health Survey, undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics during 2011–2012, provided a baseline of the most comprehensive health surveillance data ever collected and reported in Australia

For the first time the survey incorporated measurement of a comprehensive range of anthropometric, biomedical and environmental measures and risk factors for preventable chronic diseases across the Australian population. The Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2012–13 collected similar data for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander population. The value of this high-quality national data to services, policy makers, researchers and funders was, and continues to be, profound. Currently, there is no commitment to repeat this survey.

At the end of 2016, a national collaboration of leading health scientists, clinicians and organisations endorsed routine comprehensive health surveillance as one of the ten most significant policy measures to improve Australia’s health. Those involved in the national collaboration have united to assist Australia to be pro-active in preventing and reducing chronic diseases. Their work has developed agreed targets for improvement in significant health risk factors in the population by the year 2025, in accord with the World Health Organization’s global agenda for the prevention of non-communicable (chronic) diseases worldwide.

In this policy paper we summarise the impact on the Australian population of chronic diseases - such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and mental illness - and the limitations of current health data in Australia to help reduce and prevent this impact. We also discuss the urgent and future need for, and costs-benefits of, a comprehensive approach to population health surveillance that includes invaluable biomedical data. Opportunities for an enhanced surveillance system are also summarised.

We recommend investment in a second Australian Health Survey in the year 2021, and every six years thereafter, to ensure the availability of routine comprehensive health surveillance data for addressing chronic disease.

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