Data collections

The ongoing collection of population health data is used to gain a comprehensive picture of health and wellbeing and to monitor trends over time for key health indicators, such as prevalence of smoking and overweight and obesity.

Information about the health of populations offers governments and researchers important clues about health problems and emerging issues.

The findings provide evidence to:

  • inform decisions about priorities for public health and wellbeing plans
  • support strategic planning, reporting and decision-making
  • evaluate programs and initiatives
  • inform and refine public health policies
  • improve the quality and delivery of health services.

Data are reported in the biennial Chief Health Officer’s Report and contribute to various ACT Government reports, including (but not limited to) Focus On reports and the Community Services Directorate report: A Picture of ACT’s Children and Young People

Epidemiology Survey Program

ACT General Health Survey (ACTGHS)

Each year, ACT Health conducts the ACTGHS by computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) with randomly-selected households. The target is to survey 1200 adults of all ages and 500 children aged 2-15 years living in Canberra.

The survey, which commenced in 2007, is important because national health surveys tend to only include a small number of people from the ACT.

The ACTGHS is based on core questions related to self-reported health status and health behaviours, including:

  • Self-rated health
  • Oral health
  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use
  • Mental health
  • Self-reported height and weight.

ACT Health has appointed the Social Research Centre, part of the Australian National University, to administer the 2018 ACTGHS; for more information email

ACT Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (ACTPANS)

The ACTPANS has been conducted every three years since 2006. It is administered by professional survey staff, on behalf of ACT Health, in the classroom setting.

Information about physical activity, nutrition, healthy weight status, attitudes and general wellbeing indicators are collected. Height and weight are also measured.

Questionnaire items include:

  • eating patterns and food intake levels
  • physical activity and sedentary behaviour
  • attitudes to physical activity        
  • general health and wellbeing.

In 2018, 1,491 ACT Year 6 students from 30 primary schools across the ACT participated in the ACTPANS; for more information, contact:

Australian Secondary Students' Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey

The Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol & Drug (ASSAD) survey commenced in 1984 and has been conducted every three years in the ACT since 1996. The ASSAD survey was designed to provide estimates of the current prevalence of tobacco, alcohol and illicit substance use among Australian secondary school students (aged 12 to 17 years of age) and to examine trends in their use over time. The ACT collects supplementary information about:

  • sun protection 
  • nutrition intake 
  • physical activity and sedentary behaviour
  • self-reported height and weight
  • perception of weight and actions taken to control weight. 

A standard sampling procedure, administration method and core questionnaire is used throughout all states and territories of Australia. The survey is coordinated nationally by the Cancer Council Victoria, with each of the states and territories managing the data collection within their own jurisdiction.

The last survey was conducted in 2017; ACT secondary students completed a total of 1491 surveys. For more information, visit: Cancer Council Victoria or the National Drug Strategy or email

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 ad 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.

Page last updated on: 7 Nov 2019