01 September 2017

Survey still on State's pulse after 15 years

It is one of the-longest running population health studies in the nation and after 15 years of continuous monitoring, the Department of Health’s Health and Wellbeing Surveillance System (HWSS) still has its finger firmly on Western Australia’s pulse.

The HWSS is a continuous survey that helps monitor the health and wellbeing of the WA community and since 2002 has captured the health habits and status of more than 110,000 participants.

WA’s Chief Health Officer Professor Tarun Weeramanthri paid tribute to the many Western Australians who had given their time to help make the HWSS one of the most successful surveys of its kind in Australia.

“Our 80 per cent response rate is the highest in the country,” he said.

“We are very grateful to the many people who have participated in our surveys and made the HWSS such a valuable resource for health planners and policy makers.

“The quality and timeliness of this information helps us maintain, promote and protect the health of people in Western Australia.”

Every month 550 to 600 people from across the State who have been selected at random participate in the survey.

Each interview takes about 25 minutes and includes standard questions covering lifestyle risk factors and health conditions. 

The information collected can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a public health campaign or examine a particular health-related issue. In the past the HWSS has been used to examine health behaviours and outcomes of FIFO workers during the mining boom and the effect of daylight saving on people’s physical activity levels.

Results of the HWSS form the basis of two reports produced annually by the Department of Health – The Health and Wellbeing of Adults in Western Australia and the Health and Wellbeing of Children in Western Australia.

Professor Weeramanthri said that major and encouraging trends to have emerged from the HWSS over the past 15 years included a decline in smoking prevalence and a decline in high-risk alcohol consumption leading to long-term and short-term harm.

The HWSS also collects information on children through interviews with a parent or carer. Professor Weeramanthri said knowledge about the health of children in WA was crucial to developing programs and strategies that promoted healthy behaviours from a young age.

“A child’s physical and emotional development sets the foundation for their health and wellbeing as an adult,” he said.

He said two key child health findings to arise from the most recent HWSS was that most children had social support in the form of a close friend or group of friends but only one in four children met physical activity guidelines.

Other key findings outlined in the most recent HWSS reports include:

  • about two thirds (65.7 per cent) of adults and a quarter (23.6 per cent) of children are overweight or obese 
  • almost a quarter (23.0 per cent) of adults and one in five (21.0 per cent) children reported having an injury in the previous 12 months that required treatment by a health care professional
  • nearly all parents/carers of children aged 0 to 15 years (87.6 per cent) reported their child to be in good, very good or excellent health and 89.0 per cent of adults reported themselves as being in good, very good or excellent health.


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