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Indigenous eye health: $85.5 million more needed to bridge gap

27/03/2019By Myles Hume
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An additional $85.5 million in funding over five years is needed to eliminate trachoma and help align Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s eyecare with the rest of the country, Vision 2020 Australia has claimed in a new report.

The organisation has this week published a document titled: Strong eyes, strong communities – A five year plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision, 2019-2024, which makes 24 recommendations to the Australian Government and maps a path towards eyecare equality for Indigenous communities.

The report highlights four key areas for further action, including; enhancing service delivery by expanding current eyecare services; the strengthening of regional and local partnerships; embedding of eye health into Aboriginal community controlled health orgainsations and other care bodies; and the eradication of trachoma, with a sustained focus on implementing the World Health Organization’s SAFE strategy.



“Now is the time for all governments and all sides of politics to join together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, their organisations and Vision 2020 Australia members to close the gap for vision.”
Vision 2020 CEO Judith Abbott

According to the latest research, the disparity between Indigenous Australians’ and non-Indigenous Australians’ eye health has halved during the past decade, however, Australia’s Indigenous population still experiences avoidable vision loss and blindness at three times the rate of the general population, and often waits longer for treatment.

Vision 2020 Australia CEO Ms Judith Abbott said the proposed funding package would deliver more eyecare services and glasses for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, support them to access necessary care and assist in the elimination of trachoma by 2020.

“Now is the time for all governments and all sides of politics to join together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, their organisations and Vision 2020 Australia members to close the gap for vision,” she said.

“That commitment, coupled with additional funding of $85.5 million over five years, will change the lives of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their families and their communities.”

Among the most notable recommendations, Vision 2020 Australia called for the Australian Government to spend $26.2 million over five years to fund local access to eyecare support, and $18.1 million to expand the Visiting Optometrists Scheme.

Additionally, the organisation proposed $10.8 million in funding to ensure local authorities and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) continue to provide affordable glasses and other optical aids through phased expansion of current schemes from 2021-22. The organisation also proposed a $4.4 million to fund a 2020 national eye health survey to support national data collection.

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The report has received support from the NACCHO, as well as The Fred Hollows Foundation Indigenous Australia program manager Mr Shaun Tatipata, who said: “Australia’s major political parties agree we need to Close the Gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians, and this commitment must be matched by increased funding.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people wait on average 63% longer for cataract surgery than non-Indigenous Australians. That’s not acceptable.”

The complete plan and Vision 2020’s recommendations for its implementation are available to download on its website.

 

More reading:

Support for Pacific eyecare fund under Labor government

 

IMAGE CAPTION: Australia’s only Indigenous ophthalmologist Dr Kristopher Rallah-Baker Credit: The Fred Hollows Foundation

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