Population-based health screening

Australian governments run a number of health screening programs that look for early signs of certain diseases. These population-based programs are offered to everyone in defined target groups. Screening helps reduce the risk of Australians developing or dying from these diseases.

About screening

Population-based screening refers to a test offered to everyone in a target group. Screening involves simple tests to look for particular changes or early signs of a disease.

Screening is different from diagnostic testing

Screening checks everyone in a particular group, so those with early disease can get further tests and treatment. It is different from diagnostic testing, which doctors order if you already have symptoms of a disease.

If you already have signs of a disease or are at a higher risk of getting a disease, see your own doctor. Do not wait until you are eligible to be involved in a population-based screening program.

Why screening is important

Screening is important because it:

  • reduces the burden of the disease on the community and individuals (illness and death)
  • detects the disease earlier, on average, than if there was no screening
  • improves health outcomes for individuals and their families.

Screening tests are not 100% accurate and the body changes over time. This means it is important to be screened at regular intervals.


Our population-based screening programs aim to reduce the impact of several important diseases in the Australian community.

Meeting our goals

There are 5 population-based screening programs in Australia:

Population-based screening programs run within an agreed framework of:

  • policy
  • protocols
  • quality management
  • monitoring
  • evaluation
  • review.

Population-based screening framework

The Population-based screening framework sets out the principles of screening programs for cancer and chronic diseases. The framework provides guidance for decision makers when considering potential population-based screening programs in Australia.

Population-based screening framework

This framework sets out the principles of screening programs for cancer and chronic diseases. It informs decision makers about the key issues to consider when deciding whether to introduce a screening program.

The framework has assisted in the development of the following position statements about screening:

Who we work with

State and territory health departments run population-based screening programs, apart from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Learn more

Read more about cancer screening in Australia.


See cancer contacts for details of cancer screening organisations.

Date last updated:

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