Indigenous eye health, News, Ophthalmic insights

AIHW report sheds light on Indigenous eye health trends

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released the seventh annual Eye health measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people report, which details a downward trend of trachoma infections in children.

The report includes a collation of the latest available data on the changes of eye health measures among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples over time and their use of eye health services.

Of the 25 key eye health measures included in the report, 11 appear to be improving, four are worsening, seven show no change or no clear trend over time, and for the remaining three it is not possible to determine if changes represent an improvement or not.

The prevalence of trachoma infections, a highly infectious disease of the eye that can result in scarring, trichiasis (in-turned lashes) and blindness, has appeared to improve among children over the reporting years. Infection rates in children aged five to nine years in at-risk communities fell from 15% in 2009 to 2.2% in 2022.

In 2021-22, 29,000 First Nations people underwent diabetes testing with 47% of those also undergoing an eye examination. Of those who were screened for diabetic retinopathy, 510 underwent treatment, which is an increase from 439 in 2012-13.

The cataract surgery rate increased in 2020-21 from 6,462 in 2013-14 to 8,691 per million. However, the median waiting time for elective cataract surgery for First Nation people rose from 140 days in 2012-13 to 167 days in 2020-21.

Meanwhile, the proportion of First Nations people who waited more than 365 days for cataract surgery (16%) was slightly higher than the proportion of non-Indigenous Australians who waited this long (14.6%).

Across, NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, approximately 17,500 spectacles were dispensed. Victoria was the closest to meeting the estimated number of glasses needed by First Nations people aged over 40 with 2,496 dispensed compared with 4,230 needed. However, in other jurisdictions, the estimated number needed was considerably greater than the number dispensed.

More reading

AIHW report highlights progress and identifies gaps in Indigenous eye health service

Diabetic retinopathy in Indigenous Australians

The Voice to Parliament – what a ‘yes’ vote would mean for Indigenous eye health


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