Population screening involves a test being offered to all individuals in an eligible group, usually defined by age, as part of an organised program. The group is eligible because there is strong scientific evidence that they are at most risk and will get the most health benefit from screening. No screening test is 100 per cent accurate, which is why screening is offered at recommended intervals. For a screening program to succeed there must be evidence that early diagnosis and treatment increases the chance of successfully treating or managing the disease.
Population screening is planned and coordinated with the aim of bringing maximum health benefits to the community, with a focus on equity of access and health outcomes. The Department of Health oversees the delivery of screening programs in Victoria.
Some of the department's key priorities are to:
- increase participation in screening to improve health outcomes, particularly among groups that are under-screened or never screened
- provide leadership and expert advice on screening policy and programs in Victoria and nationally
- monitor the performance and outcomes of funded screening programs and analyse trends
- drive quality improvements and ensure an evidence-based approach to screening policy and programs
- improve capacity within screening service providers.
The Australian Government has developed a Population Based Screening based on the World Health Organization principles of screening. The aim of the framework is to provide guidance for decision-makers when considering potential new screening programs or making changes to existing programs.
Screening registers underpin population screening programs by collecting data and supporting participation and follow-up of abnormal screening results.
Cancer screening programs look for early signs of the disease or indications that a person is more likely to develop the disease in the future.
Improving outcomes in under-screened groups
The Department of Health and Human Services has a strong focus on improving health outcomes for people in under-screened and non-screened communities.
Guidelines produced by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend that all women are advised of the availability of prenatal screening tests.
Newborn bloodspot screening
Newborn bloodspot screening allows babies at risk of rare but potentially serious medical conditions to receive prompt treatment.
Infant hearing screening
The Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program (VIHSP) is a statewide program to screen the hearing of all newborn infants.
Reviewed 21 October 2021