Early Term Births identified as a pre-eminent issue in Fourth Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation

12 May 2021

The Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation Series explores how healthcare use in Australia varies depending on where people live. It investigates reasons for variation that may be unwarranted, and provides specific achievable actions to reduce unwarranted variation.

The forth Atlas was recently published and examines early planned birth, chronic disease and infection – potentially preventable hospitalisations, lumbar spinal surgery, ear nose and throat surgery in children and young people, gastrointestinal investigations and medicines use in older people

The Fourth Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation examines variation in healthcare use according to where people live.

It covers six clinical areas:

  • early planned births;
  • chronic disease and infection;
  • ear, nose and throat surgery in children and young people;
  • lumbar spinal surgery;
  • gastrointestinal investigations; and
  • medicines use in older people.


As the new Altas profiles early-term births as a pre-eminent variation issue we know it will be of benefit to our members to familiarise themselves with this report:



Why measure variation in healthcare use? [statement from Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare]

Getting the best outcomes for patients and reducing harm are the goals of the Atlas. Where we see substantial variation in use of a particular treatment, it is an alarm bell that should make us stop and investigate whether appropriate care is being delivered.

Variation in itself is not necessarily bad, and it can be good if it reflects health services responding to differences in patient preferences or underlying needs. When a difference in the use of health services does not reflect these factors, it is unwanted variation and represents an opportunity for the health system to improve.

Looking at how healthcare use varies between people living in different areas, between people with and without socioeconomic disadvantage, and between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and other Australians can show who in our community is missing out. Fundamental changes to address the underlying determinants of ill health, as well as better service delivery for those with existing disease, are needed where these inequities are found.