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Vision 2020 Australia welcomes funding for Indigenous eye health

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Vision 2020 Australia welcomes Australian Government funding for a national program to increase access to eye health and vision care services for Aboriginal Australians.

The initiative will provide eye health testing equipment, along with relevant training and support, to health services in more than 100 sites across Australia.

This will greatly increase access to detection and appropriate care of eye diseases for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Carla Northam, CEO of Vision 2020 Australia, says: ‘Initiatives such as these are essential to improve eye health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

‘Significant and troubling inequities in eye health exist between Aboriginal and non-Indigenous populations. The prevalence of vision impairment and blindness among Indigenous Australians is three times that of non-Indigenous Australians. The good news is 94 per cent of vision loss in Aboriginal communities is preventable or treatable.

‘As the peak body for eye health and vision care, Vision 2020 Australia applauds the Australian Government for funding this program and congratulates the consortium of organisations involved in its delivery.’

Vision 2020 Australia members, Brien Holden Vision Institute and The Australian College of Optometry, will co-lead the new Provision of Eye Health Equipment and Training program, working with the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, the Centre for Eye Health and Optometry Australia.

The organisations will work collaboratively to implement the program with guidance from representatives from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service sector.

Mitasha Yu, Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Brien Holden Vision Institute, says: ‘We are greatly motivated by this new opportunity of increased resources to continue working with the Aboriginal eye health coordinators and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. We believe the consortium can strategically make further inroads towards the inequalities in eye care that exist within Australia, and we are grateful to the Commonwealth Government for making these funds available.’

Maureen O’Keefe, CEO of the Australian College of Optometry, says: ‘The supply and maintenance of eye health testing equipment in primary care clinics and training in its use, will improve access to timely detection, management and treatment of eye disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and assist in preventing avoidable blindness. We look forward to working with the consortium to address and arrest the rising rate of diabetes related blindness in these affected communities.’

Running until June 2019, the program will fund the instillation of retinal cameras, aiding increased rates of diabetic retinopathy screening by Indigenous primary health care services and supporting referral pathways for comprehensive eye examination.

Health workers, including general practitioners, will have skills to interpret images taken with a retinal camera and understand when patients need to be referred to an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Slit lamps will be provided at some of the 100 locations, which is essential equipment for visiting optometrists or ophthalmologists to conduct comprehensive eye examinations on site.

Health workers in Aboriginal health services will also be able to explain the impact of undiagnosed or untreated eye health disease to their patients.

ENDS

For more information: Adam Sawell at Vision 2020 Australia

03 9656 2020, 0401 096 507 or asawell@vision2020australia.org.au

About Vision 2020 Australia

As the national peak body for the eye health and vision care sector, Vision 2020 Australia represents over 50 member organisations involved in: local and global eye care; health promotion; low vision support; vision rehabilitation; eye research; professional assistance; and community support. Established in October 2000, Vision 2020 Australia is part of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global initiative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). 

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