HERON: Using population health data to improve health services, policy and planning

Project Short Title
Access to primary health care

Project Number

Project Status

Chief Investigators
Elizabeth Comino, Mark Harris

Other Team Members
Elizabeth Harris, Gawaine Powell Davies


Investment in community based health care settings has been estimated at between 30-40% of all health expenditure. Despite this, Australia does not have a comprehensive data collection on access to or use of primary health care (PHC) services and thus PHC services are underrepresented in health statistics. By PHC we refer to those health-related services provided in community based settings through general practice, allied health and nursing services (publicly and privately funded) and community health services (generally funded by state governments and the non-government sector). The reasons for the lack of a comprehensive PHC data collection lie in the complex mix of Commonwealth and State, publicly and privately funded services as well as the range of services that are provided.


The aim of this program is to develop and implement research into equity of access to quality primary health care (PHC) using population health data collections.

The research will be undertaken in three overall stages:

1. Development of a conceptual framework of access to and use of quality PHC

2. Exploration of routine data collections to examine access to and use of quality PHC

3. Development of a model for a comprehensive PHC data collection.

Design and Method

Currently we are working with population health survey data to identify potential indicators of quality care and to examine the population health characteristics that are associated with uptake of these indicators. New research is being developed to develop and test alternate indicators of primary health care. Initially work examined the use of population survey data. The research is now underway to link series population health data set and investegating access to primary health care.

Key Publications

Comino EJ, Hermiz O, Flack J, Harris E, Powell Davies PG, Harris M. Using population health surveys to provide information on access to and use of quality primary health care. Australian Health Review. November 2006; 30(4): 485-495.