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Trachoma-elimination program boosted by $16.5 million in budget

barrassingly, Australia rains the only developed country in the world to still have a trachoma probl, predominantly among its indigenous population and it has joined the World Health Organization’s call to eliminate the condition by 2020.The funding is expected to boost a number of state and territory programs according to Prof Taylor, who is no stranger to the issue and whose involvent started decades before 2009 when he was an early mber of indigenous eye health initiatives launched by the late Prof Fred Hollows in the 1970s. Probably more than any single individual, Prof Taylor has championed the elimination of trachoma in Australia and the roles education, simple hygiene measures, and the pharmaceutical azithromycin have to play in achieving that goal. Among his numerous books (22) and publications (500) is a monograph on the topic (Taylor HR, 2008. Trachoma: A Blinding Scourge From the Bronze Age to the Twenty-First Century published by Haddington Press, Melbourne) and the Trachoma Resource Book by Hooshmand J, Taylor HR, Stanford E, 2010 published by the IEHU.”This funding will allow state and territory partners to continue to work in collaboration with the IEHU to support health promotion and social marketing work that is critical for eliminating trachoma,” Prof Taylor said.Trachoma, an infection that can blind, is still prevalent in 60 per cent of outback Aboriginal communities. It causes conjunctivitis in young children, leads to blindness in later life from the effects of in-turned eyelashes on the anterior eye, and is completely preventable.In 2009 the federal government committed $16 million over four years for trachoma control and although the uptake was slow in some places, once started, rapid progress was made. Overall, the rate of trachoma in children has dropped from 14% to 9% over the past three years. “Trachoma is preventable and treatable with the SAFE strategy, we know what to do and when we do it right, it works,” Professor Taylor said. (SAFE: Surgery for trichiasis, Antibacterials, Facial cleanliness, Environmental improvents.)Anti-trachoma programs are now well established in Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia but the situations in New South Wales and Queensland rain unclear, perhaps due partly to the significant upheavals in their state governments, departmental reorganisations, and public-service reshuffles over the period of the original programs.Prof Taylor acknowledged the support of Alice Springs resident and federal health minister for, Mr Warren Snowdon, who has first-hand knowledge of the probl and its magnitude.The funding announcent was timely and welcome as there was much uncertainty among the staff of the most recent programmes (2009-) whose jobs were in jeopardy because funding had run out. Prof Taylor views the trachoma eradication programme as one of the many steps in the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision, a gap that is probably still too wide.

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