Background: Administrative databases are widely available and have been extensively used to provide estimates of chronic disease prevalence for the purpose of surveillance of both geographical and temporal trends. There are, however, other sources of data available, such as medical records from primary care and national surveys. In this paper we compare disease prevalence estimates obtained from these three different data sources. Methods: Data from general practitioners (GP) and administrative transactions for health services were collected from five Italian regions (Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Marche and Sicily) belonging to all the three macroareas of the country (North, Center, South). Crude prevalence estimates were calculated by data source and region for diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For diabetes and COPD, prevalence estimates were also obtai Results: Crude prevalence estimates of diabetes in administrative databases (range: from 4.8% to 7.1%) were lower than corresponding GP (6.2%-8.5%) and survey-based estimates (5.1%-7.5%). Geographical trends were similar in the three sources and estimates based on treatment were the same, while estimates adjusted for completeness of ascertainment (6.1%-8.8%) were slightly higher. For ischaemic heart disease administrative and GP data sources were fairly consistent, with prevalence ranging from 3 Conclusion: This study supports the use of data from Italian administrative databases to estimate geographic differences in population prevalence of ischaemic heart disease, treated diabetes, diabetes mellitus and heart failure. The algorithm for COPD used in this study requires further refinement.