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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 34(2)

Is Western Australia representative of other Australian States and Territories in terms of key socio-demographic and health economic indicators?

Antony Clark A B C, David B. Preen A, Jonathon Q. Ng A B, James B. Semmens B, C. D’Arcy J. Holman A

A Centre for Health Services Research, School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia. Emails: jonathon.ng@graduate.uwa.edu.au; david.preen@uwa.edu.au; dholman@uwa.edu.au
B Centre for Population Health Research, Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University of Technology, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia. Email: james.semmens@curtin.edu.au
C Corresponding author. Email: a.clark@curtin.edu.au
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Objective. To evaluate the extent to which Western Australian (WA) represents the broader Australian population in terms of key socio-demographic and health economic indicators.

Methods. We compared key demographic, social and health economic indicators across all Australian States and Territories from Australian government publications in the census years 1991–2006. Jurisdictional averages (JAs) were calculated as the mean (±s.d.) or median (±range). Observed jurisdiction indicators were compared with the JA and ranked according its representativeness of the JA.

Results. WA was among the three closest jurisdictions to the national JA for all socio-demographic and health economic indicators examined, with the exception of uptake of private health insurance (ranked 6th) and per-capita health expenditure (ranked 5th). The Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory were least representative for the majority of indicators. Excluding the proportions of people living in rural or remote areas (0–100%) and of indigenous origin (0.4–28.8%), variations in the indicators across the jurisdictions were relatively small.

Conclusions. Population differences between Australia’s States were small, whereas Australia’s Territories were least representative of the JA. WA was the most representative population of Australia’s eight jurisdictions and continues to be in a strong position to contribute to knowledge of the Australian health system that is applicable Australia-wide.

What is known about the topic? The Western Australian Data Linkage system (WADLS) is a highly successful and productive research tool that facilitates population-based health research. A potential criticism and concern of this research surrounds the representativeness of the WA population to other Australian States and Territories. Anecdotally, there is a perception that WA’s isolation from other Australian populations may lead to systematic socio-demographic and socioeconomic differences; thus limiting the generalisability of research findings.

What does this paper add? This paper compares Australia’s State and Territory population profiles and allows researchers to determine the extent to which contextual issues concerning key socio-demographic and health economic indicators may affect the external validity of population-based research arising from any one jurisdiction.

What are the implications to practitioners? In the absence of previous evaluations in this area and with the continued emergence of new data linkage systems around the country, this information is important for health researchers and policy makers who may wish to draw conclusions and make policy decisions that rely upon extrapolating findings from population-based studies.

Keywords: data linkage, demography, population-based research, socioeconomics.

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