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Optometry board commits to ‘closing the gap’ by 2031

01/08/2018By Matthew Woodley
The Optometry Board of Australia (OBA) has reaffirmed its intention to ‘close the gap’ by 2031 with regard to Indigenous healthcare, as part of a wider commitment that includes the 15 national health practitioner boards.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), accreditation authorities and Indigenous health sector organisations also signed the “Statement of Intent”, which recognised that patient safety includes the link between clinical and cultural safety, and that this link must be defined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

“We will work together to achieve equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians to close the gap by 2031,” the joint release stated.

“We share a commitment to ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to health services that are culturally safe and free from racism so that they can enjoy a healthy life, equal to that of other Australians.”

Part of the release also acknowledges that it will involve substantive reform and a long-term approach in order to deliver these outcomes. It also concedes there is currently no nationally agreed definition of ‘cultural safety’, but describes it in the statement as “the individual and institutional knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies needed to deliver optimal healthcare.”

UniMelb’s Indigenous Eye Health Unit’s Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision states that blindness rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 3x higher than other Australians, despite around 90% of vision loss being preventable or treatable. More than one-third of Indigenous Australians have never had an eye exam.

Image top: An Indigenous Australian undergoing an eye exam. Courtesy: Lions Eye Institute

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