Quality information is vital for monitoring the health status of the population; ACT Health invests resources in developing high quality surveillance systems for health conditions and associated risk factors. With the emerging health issues associated with alarming increase in chronic diseases largely attributable to poor lifestyle choices and an ageing population, the need for information that can monitor and inform public health planning and policy is critical.

The Epidemiology Section manages population health datasets such as the ACT Cancer Registry and the ACT Maternal Perinatal Data Collection and has a survey program that collects information on the health of people in the ACT and associated risk factors for many chronic conditions. Our surveys include:

  • ACT General Health Survey which has been ongoing yearly since 2007
  • Year 6 ACT Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (every 3 years since 2006)
  • ACT Secondary Students' Alcohol and Drug Survey (every three years since 1996)

The following sections provide more information about our data collections.


Epidemiology Survey Program

ACT General Health Survey (ACTGHS)

The ACT General Health Survey (ACTGHS) is a computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) survey conducted each year with residents of the ACT. It is one of the main instruments through which the ACT Health Directorate monitors population health and reports on performance indicators. The Epidemiology Section developed the ACTGHS program to address issues around small ACT sample sizes in national surveys, irregularity of national surveys and inability to always meet information needs in a timely manner. Its objectives are to:

  • monitor changes over time in self-reported health behaviours, health status, health service use, satisfaction with health services, and other factors that influence health;
  • support the planning, implementation, and evaluation of health services;
  • collect health information that is not available from other sources;
  • be responsive to emerging needs for health information;
  • promote research.

The survey, which commenced in 2007, has been administered yearly by NSW Ministry of Health on behalf of the ACT Health Directorate. The survey covers ACT residents living in private households and for the first time in 2012 mobile phones were incorporated into the survey sample.

Year 6 ACT Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (ACTPANS)

ACTPANS was developed as a surveillance tool to provide children’s healthy weight determinants every 3 years on upper primary school aged children. Specifically, ACTPANS provides input on:

  • current BMI distribution and any changes in this distribution over time from standardised measures of height and weight rather than self report
  • the pattern of physical activity undertaken in school, out of school and active transport to and from school
  • the frequency and type of foods eaten at home as well as in school canteens
  • attitudes towards food choices, eating patterns, health and well being and physical activity in this age group, and
  • the impact of physical activity, eating patterns, attitudes and psychosocial outcomes in predicting  BMI outcome.

ACTPANS has been undertaken in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2015. Detailed reports were produced on the results of the 2006 and 2009 surveys.

Australian Secondary Students' Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey

The ASSAD survey commenced in 1984, and has been conducted every three years in the ACT since 1993. It collects information on the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco use and other health risk factors among secondary students (aged 12 to 17 years of age).  The survey results are reported to the National Drug Strategy, a cooperative venture between Australian, state and territory governments and the non-government sector whose aim is to improve health, social and economic outcomes for Australians by preventing the uptake of harmful drug use and reducing the harmful effects of licit and illicit drugs in our society.

The survey is funded by the Cancer Council Victoria Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, state and territory health departments, state and territory cancer councils and the Australian Government Department of Health. The survey is coordinated nationally by the Cancer Council Victoria with each of the states and territories managing the survey within their own jurisdiction.  The last survey was conducted in 2014.  ACT students completed a total of 1675 surveys.

ACT Cancer Registry

The ACT Cancer Registry was established in 1994, when cancer reporting became mandatory in the ACT. Data was collected from 1985 but it is not considered complete prior to mandatory reporting. The purpose of the ACT Cancer Registry is to monitor the incidence and trends of cancer in the ACT. Data are collected from hospital records, pathology laboratories, day surgeries, hospices and nursing homes. About 1,000 to 2,000 new cases are reported each year. Currently, there are approximately 33,000 records in the registry. The registry does not cover non-melanocytic skin cancer (ie basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma).

ACT Maternal Perinatal Data Collection

The ACT Maternal Perinatal Data Collection is a population-based collection covering all births in ACT hospitals (public and private) and home births in the ACT. It does not include interstate births where the mother is usually resident in the ACT. Each data set includes all live births and still births of at least 20 weeks gestation or at least 400 grams birthweight and covers such topics as mother’s demographics, type of induction, method of birth, malformations, and apgar scores at birth. The data are managed and maintained by the Epidemiology Section within ACT Health. The ACT MPDC is linked to the ACT APC data to provide maternal condition and complications, and birth defects information.


Other ACT Health data we use:

ACT Admitted Patient Care Collection (ACT APC)

The data sets in this collection contain details of all ACT hospital inpatient records. It details patient records from each of the public and private hospitals in the ACT, for ACT and non-ACT residents. The information reported includes patient demographics, diagnoses, procedures, source of referral etc. The data do not include details of ACT residents admitted to hospitals outside the ACT.

ACT Emergency Department Information System (EDIS)

The ACT Emergency Department Information System contains records of patient presentations to the Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital Emergency Departments. The EDIS data contain details of patient demographics and diagnoses, triage categories and sources of referral.

Kindy Screen - Kindergarten health check

The Kindergarten Health Check (KHC) is a community based screening program that provides health checks for the whole of the 5 or 6-year old kindergarten population of children attending kindergarten in the ACT. The ACT KHC program in its present form has been running since 1998.  Registered and enrolled nurses employed by ACT Health conduct the Kindergarten Health Check in all ACT primary school throughout the year. The health check includes vision, hearing, weight and development.


Data linkage

Data linkage is a process of linking information from people held in different data collections together to create a study dataset that contains information about a person, group or population that is relevant to specific health conditions, treatments or outcomes. For example, to identify modifiable risk factors for birth outcomes, or to compare differences in outcomes for diseases such as cardiovascular disease or cancer between different population groups.

Data linkage can be used for epidemiological research, population health surveillance, health system performance monitoring, and program evaluation, as well as social research. It helps to meet government needs for information and to provide a way for researchers to study health and social factors in populations. 

The Population Health Division (through the Epidemiology Section) is a founding partner of the Centre for Health Record (CHeReL) at NSW Health. The CHeReL provides data linkage infrastructure and services for the linkage of ACT administrative data collections, such as the ACT Cancer Registry, Maternal Perinatal Data Collection, Admitted Patient Care (APC) and Emergency Department (ED) records from public hospitals, and the ACT Notifiable Diseases Management System, and births and deaths from the ACT Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

All data linkage is conducted according to best practice data governance processes and policies to protect the privacy and confidentiality of its records at all times.  All projects using linked data must obtain approval from the data custodians and a human research ethics committee. The CHeReL also complies with best practice in privacy preserving record linkage.


Statistical methodology and glossary


The data is presented by the ACT Government for the purpose of disseminating information for the benefit of the public. The ACT Government has taken great care to ensure the information in this report is as correct and accurate as possible. Whilst the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information. Differences in statistical methods and calculations, data updates and guidelines may result in the information contained in this report varying from previously published information.