Alliance sets sights on final elimination of blinding trachoma in Central Australia

nac-35-aAboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, former Governor-General Michael Jeffery, government services, civil society organisations and not-for-profits will gather in Alice Springs from today to work towards the common goal of eliminating trachoma, the leading infectious cause of avoidable blindness.

Australia is the only developed country in the world where trachoma is still endemic and it is only found in remote and very remote Aboriginal communities in SA, WA and NT.

Major General Michael Jeffery will launch a Tri-State Trachoma Elimination Program today that will build on the progress that Aboriginal controlled health services, civil society and government service providers have already made on reducing trachoma in 200 at risk remote Aboriginal communities.

Major General Jeffery said the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is supporting this program as part of a Commonwealth-wide effort to eliminate trachoma that will form part of a tribute to Her Majesty’s 60 years of service to the people of the Commonwealth.

“There is no place in modern Australia for the avoidable pain and devastating loss of vision caused by trachoma,” Major General Jeffery said.

“The Tri-State Trachoma Elimination Program launched today is an important step towards Australia meeting the global and Commonwealth targets to eliminate blinding trachoma by 2020.

“It will be a concrete step towards closing the gap in eye health, and will ensure all elements of the World Health Organisation’s S.A.F.E. (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental hygiene) protocol are brought to bear on trachoma elimination.

“This Program will importantly demonstrate a model based on Aboriginal leadership and community ownership of measures to eliminate trachoma in remote communities.”

Justin Mohamed, Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, said the program would help end the disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ eye health and mainstream Australia.

“Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people are six times more likely to go blind than the rest of the Australian community.  As much as 94% of vision loss is treatable or preventable. We can make a significant difference with strategies ranging from better access to surgery to cleaner water supply and helping schools to enforce hand and face washing.

“The vision and scope of this program is bold but developing countries with far less resources have eliminated trachoma so it is definitely achievable,” Mr Mohamed said.

Media contacts:
Jane Garcia (NACCHO) 0434 489 533
Dan Haldon (General Jeffery) 0434 633 449

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