“We’re making some really good progress and we’ve seen that what’s been recommended and implemented actually works.
Over the last 10 years, the number of community hotspots for trachoma has reduced from 54 to 13. Trachoma is easily spread between children so ongoing efforts are needed to maintain improvements in hygiene.
As we approach the final year of the steps still need to be taken to guarantee equity by 2020.
We have seen an increase in funding and a three-fold increase in outreach of eye services, but to meet community needs we still have another 25 per cent to go.
The work being done by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations and all of our partners in eye health has been instrumental in this progress.
We cannot over emphasise the importance of linking primary health care with specialist eye health services.
Ongoing support is vital to ensuring the expanded services are firmly embedded in the ACCHOs and other primary care providers to make sure that the changes are sustainable over the long term. It will not be possible to close the gap for vision without additional funding
Nearly eight years since launching his plan to improve the eye health of Indigenous Australians, University of Melbourne ophthalmologist Hugh Taylor said significant advances are also being made to meet the WHO target for the elimination of trachoma – a blinding eye infection that’s only found in Indigenous communities in Australia – by the end of 2020
Picture above in banner : IEH has developed a ‘toblerone’ (or ‘tent’ shaped) desktop resource and an ‘Asking the Question’ (AtQ) Information Sheet that aims to highlight ways to improve eye care service delivery in mainstream practices and clinics with appropriate identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status. See Part 2 below
Professor Taylor highlighted Vision 2020 Australia initiatives as priority areas for government.
“Vision 2020 Australia and its members have launched a five-year plan to improve Indigenous eye health,” Professor Taylor said. “The Strong Eyes, Strong Communities plan calls for $85.5 million to empower ACCHOs, build on our work to close the gap for vision and provide a framework and advocacy program until 2024.
Australia is on track to close the gap for vision for Indigenous Australians by the end of next year, but this won’t be achieved without ongoing support for long-term solutions, according to a new report.
The 2019 Annual Update on the Implementation of the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision reveals that : Download HERE
- 50 per cent of systemic issues identified in Indigenous eyecare have been fixed. Progress is being made on all of the intermediary steps, with almost 80 per cent complete
- Outreach eye examinations received by Indigenous Australians have almost tripled in the the last six years
- Cataract surgery rates have increased nearly 5 times since 2008, however a further 2400 cataract surgeries are required each year to meet the population need
- Indigenous patients still wait 50 per cent longer for cataract surgery in public hospitals, promoting calls for more timely access, resources and case management
- The number of Indigenous Australians with diabetes receiving annual eye checks for diabetic retinopathy – which causes vision loss and blindness – has more than doubled over the last 10 years. With 155 retinal cameras being provided to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO), these rates will continue to improve
Subsidised schemes are being reviewed and strengthened to improve access to prescription glasses
Doctor Kris Rallah-Baker launch the 2019 update on implementation of the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision
The 2019 Annual Update on the Implementation of the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision was launched today at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists 51th Annual Scientific Congress in Sydney.
Indigenous eye health advocates have designed a new tool to help eyecare practices initiate conversations with patients who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
The University of Melbourne’s Indigenous Eye Health (IEH) unit is now distributing a desktop resource that has been specially developed for mainstream optometry and ophthalmology practices. The group aims to promote cultural safety and ensure Indigenous patients can access appropriate care.
The two-sided, ‘tent-shaped’ resource has been designed in consultation with the Indigenous community and works as a prompt by asking patients: “Are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?”. The staff-facing side reminds practice employees to ask the same question to each patient, while remaining sensitive, confident and respectful.
“The prime motivation is to try help the professions of optometry and ophthalmology, and the practices they run, create a setting that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would consider to be a culturally safe place to receive care,” optometrist and IEH deputy director Mr Mitchell Anjou told Insight.
“There’s no resource like this in mainstream eyecare, and we are now hoping to stimulate conversations within practices about improved approaches to service and care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people who present at their practices.”
While progress has been made, Indigenous communities continue to experience avoidable vision loss and blindness at three times the rate of the non-Indigenous population.
Anjou said stronger data and evidence could assist in eye service planning and delivery, helping to further reduce Australia’s eye health disparity. Improved identification could also have a positive impact in terms of clinical management.
This includes access to targeted services for Indigenous patients such as subsidised spectacle schemes, prioritisation for cataract surgery, and specific Medicare rebates or funding.
Anjou said other specific service options may be available, including access to Aboriginal hospital liaison officers, Aboriginal health workers and transport support.
“In some cases, clinical guidelines vary between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians, for example the frequency of retinal screening for people with diabetes, which is annual for Aboriginal patients and once every two years for other patients,” Anjou said.
The new resource is supported by Optometry Australia, RANZCO and Vision 2020 Australia.