Monday, 20 September 2010

Australians are becoming healthier, wealthier and wiser

The recent release of the electronic publication Measures of Australia’s Progress 2010 (MAP2010) caused quite a stir at the National Statistics conference held in Sydney last week (NatStats 2010).

MAP2010 looks at a range of progress indicators over the last decade and aims to answers the question- is life in Australia getting better?

So… is it? The overall answer is yes. We can add a few years onto life expectancy, drop a few percentage points on unemployment rates, see attainment of vocational or higher education qualifications soar and watch the dollar rise for both national income and household economic wellbeing.

On the downside? The environment. Australia has regressed in the areas of biodiversity and atmosphere… and quite significantly I might add.

We’ve known for a while that Australia has generally been progressing in overall wellbeing and prosperity, and that it also has environmental issues that need to be addressed, so why the big fuss over MAP2010?

It’s not just about the fact that MAP have expanded their indicators, or that key indicators can be measured over 10 years giving us a real sense of progress/regress or even the overwhelming joy of the Australians at the conference knowing that they are more or less on the right track. It is about the fact that anyone can access the publication and see at a glace where Australia is going well and where they need to improve. And best of all, you don’t need to be a statistician (or a rocket scientist) to understand it!

MAP2010 uses a traffic-light system to indicate dimensions of progress that have improved (green light), dimensions that have regressed (red light) and dimensions that have neither progress or regressed over the last 10 years (amber).

The publication includes a snapshot of data and text to explain what impact these measurements have on the lives of Australians. Further and quite detailed information is available for each indicator for those who are interested, but for those who just want to see where Australia stands and how far it has come- the snapshot provides just the right amount of information.

This echoes a common theme that has come out of NatStats2010 conference, that is a call to not only continue developing measures of progress, but to ensure these measures are communicated and understood by those they most effect- the general public. I am thrilled to say that I think MAP2010 has achieved this.

Stayed tuned for a video interview with Sue Taylor on MAP2010...


1 comment:

  1. I'm also thrilled to hear you think MAP2010 is understood by the public! I wrote most of MAP2002 and struggled at times to persuade some of my colleagues in the ABS that it was OK to simplify things if it meant they would be understood - we could talk about cancer, not malignant neoplasms, and it wouldn't reflect badly on us, etc. But though we tried hard I wasn't convinced it really worked. I thought it had, but then I sent a copy to my mum and proudly called her up to see what she thought of the fruits of 2 years of my life. After she expressed delight at the photo of her grandson on the front cover, I pressed her for her opinion of the actual publication. "Ohhh much too complicated for me with all those graphs. I gave it to your father" .

    So I quite agree with you and the conclusions of NATSTATS, but never underestimate the difficulty of bridging what Hans Rosling calls the last 10 centimetres: of getting statistical information past the retina and into the brain. Its great to hear the ABS are doing so well.