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AIHW data shows progress, but more to be done to close the gap for vision

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Vision 2020 Australia, the peak body for the eye sector, welcomes today’s release of the Indigenous eye health measures 2018 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. This report is invaluable to the sector’s efforts to close the gap for vision, and contains critical data to help track progress towards this important goal.

Eighteen leading organisations  involved in the delivery of eye care and health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people worked together to develop Strong eyes, strong communities – A five year plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision, 2019-2024.

This plan sets out a range of practical actions required to address critical gaps in eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and today’s AIHW report reinforces the criticality of further investment in those areas. These include:

  • Expanding access to timely diabetes screening, management and treatment – the data in the AIHW report suggests that a significant number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with diabetes are not getting their recommended eye tests to minimise the risk of diabetic vision loss.
  • Increasing the availability of subsidised glasses across all states and territories – while around 60% of vision loss could be addressed through providing appropriate glasses, the data in the AIHW report shows that there is a need to expand existing schemes to meet this need.
  • Increasing access to publicly funded cataract surgery - the AIHW data shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to wait too long for cataract surgery - in 2016-17 the median waiting time for elective cataract surgery for Indigenous Australians was 141 days, compared to 89 days for non-Indigenous Australians.

This report highlights just how critical it is to have up to date information in this important area, and Strong Eyes Strong Communities recommends that the Australian Government:

  • Continue supporting the AIHW to produce this important report, and
  • Fund a second National Eye Health survey in 2020, to provide updated information regarding the prevalence of eye disease (as the current report relies on a 2015 study)

Quotes attributable to Vision 2020 Australia CEO Judith Abbott:

“Today’s report shows that progress continues to be made to close the eye health and vision gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which reflects the hard work and commitment of many working in this important area.”

“However, too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still experience vision loss that could be avoided through better access to eye testing, affordable glasses and timely treatment.”

“Strong Eyes, Strong Communities provides a practical set of actions to end avoidable blindness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, developed and endorsed by 18 leading organisations involved in eye care and broader health delivery.”

“State, territory and federal health ministers have agreed in principle to work towards ending avoidable blindness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

“We welcome that commitment, and our members look forward to working with them to ensure we close that gap for vision.”

ENDS

Media contact: Ben Jessup 0410 632 123 or bjessup@vision2020australia.org.au

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