Without data you are just another person with an opinion

Tuesday, 23 February 2016
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In any given month or so, a large number of reports are released - by various agencies -  on matters related to rural and remote health and wellbeing. Led in this work by Andrew Philips, the NRHA tries to become familiar with the content of such reports. Here, for the information of readers of our website, are some snippets of information from just a few of the releases of the last few months.

ABS 2015-15 National Health Survey. The first results are now available from the latest National Health Survey. A small number of issues are reported by remoteness, including the prevalence of smoking and off long-term disease/condition prevalence.


Of great potential importance is that rates of smoking in rural areas, apparently static last decade, appear to be declining. Nevertheless, the different rates are still quite stark: while 13.0% of adults in Major cities smoke daily, 16.7% and 20.9% do so in Inner regional and Outer regional/remote areas respectively.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), in association with Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), is responsible for reporting statistics about Australia’s health professionals (FTE rate, age, hours worked etc). AIHW periodically reports for medical, nursing, a range of allied health and dentistry professionals, among others.

The exciting news is that this information is now available as a dynamic data display (ie a magic table you can play with), providing a wide range of data over a number of years (2011-14) for a range of professions, and for a range of geographic areas: by State/Territory, Primary Health Network, SA3 and - if you look really hard - by ASGS Remoteness. Results can apparently be exported to other formats.

This is a very nice piece of work. You can find it at http://www.aihw.gov.au/workforce-data/ then check out the link under Dynamic data display: Australia's registered health workforce by location.

Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation


The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has released the first Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation, illuminating variation in health care provision across Australia. This impressive report describes antimicrobial dispensing, diagnostic, surgical, mental health and chronic disease interventions, psychotropic and opioid medicines, by local area (SA3), state and by remoteness, including cross tabulations of these areas, and showing the range of variation (for example, variation of the rate of prescribing amongst the local areas within Inner regional areas). It's well worth a look.


The latest Annual Report on Government Services (RoGS), which provides information on the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of government services in Australia, was progressively released between 27 January - 4 February 2016.

ROGS http://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/report-on-government-services

It is important to realise that reporting relates (understandably) to access to Government services, rather than access to all services (eg public dentistry, but not private dentistry; just the PBS-funded component of PBS schedule medications).

It is a valuable and detailed description of government services in primary care and community health, public hospitals, and mental health. The report also reviews a range of  services (eg education, community services, justice, etc), with some information by remoteness or urban/non-urban. 

AIHW has released Tobacco Indicators Baseline Data: Reporting under the National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018 available at http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129552715

This very useful report presents baseline data for several tobacco indicators using various data sources and collections years. It describes a range of smoking indicators (such as age at uptake, quitting attempts) by remoteness, Indigenous/non-Indigenous, Socio-Economic Status and other variables. It includes some very worrying data on rates of smoking in pregnancy and the rate of uptake at high-school in rural areas.

The report also comes with a handy set of data tables (which is Heaven - if you're of that sort!). It is well worth a look for anyone interested in key public health issues.

And also this little gem

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has released Families in regional, rural and remote Australia, a relatively brief but very useful comparison of the characteristics of families living in major cities, regional and remote areas of Australia. See


Links to these sources and many more can be found collated in the NRHA's Little Book of Rural Health Numbers .