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Yalata and Australian Trachoma Alliance partner to eliminate trachoma

MEDIA RELEASE

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation is proud to be part of an alliance which has signed an agreement with Yalata community in South Australia to stamp out Trachoma – a leading cause of preventable blindness in a number of remote Aboriginal communities.

The agreement between the Yalata Community near Ceduna in South Australia and the Australian Trachoma Alliance (ATA)* headed by former Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffery, commits to working together on an action plan to address the key causes of trachoma.

National Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chairperson Matthew Cooke said it was disappointing that Australia remained the only Western country affected by the disease.

“Trachoma is a contagious bacterial infection, which if left untreated can lead to corneal scarring and eventually blindness,” Mr Cooke said.

“In remote communities such as Yalata it is spread through overcrowding, poor hygiene and substandard environmental health conditions – all of which can be addressed by effective planning and education.

“Poor eye-sight affects learning, it affects health and it affects a person’s ability to care for their family, with devastating impacts on the welfare of entire families. We need to move beyond treating trachoma through surgery or antibiotics to preventing infection and reinfection in the first place.”

Major General Michael Jeffery said the ATA’s Safe Eyes Project was mostly funded by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Trust which is working to eliminate causes of preventable blindness in Commonwealth countries.

Yalata is one of three desert communities in central Australia taking part by addressing facial hygiene and environmental health, which will improve eye health and also help reduce the incidence of other communicable diseases such as rheumatic fever and gastroenteritis.

“This commitment has been initiated by the Yalata community – it’s not people coming in from outside and telling them what should be done,” Mr Jeffrey said.

“A key principle of the commitment signed today is the Yalata community controls the planning process so it works for them and builds on existing health and Trachoma programs, with support from the ATA. Community resources will be used wherever possible.”

*ATA members are NACCHO, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Australia, Vision 2020 Australia and the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne.

Key Facts

  • A clean face and clean environment are key prevention strategies to combat Trachoma.
  • More than 50 developing countries in Africa and Asia are still affected by Trachoma
  • In 2009 the Australian Government made a commitment to eliminate blinding trachoma from Aboriginal communities.
  • Trachoma remains prevalent in many remote communities.
  • Like conjunctivitis and other bacterial infections spread by contact it particularly affects children.
  • In Alice Springs in 2014 the ATA convened a forum of Aboriginal Controlled Community Owned Health Organisations from the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia to discuss how trachoma can be eliminated in their communities.

ENDS 

Media Contact 

NACCHO National Communications and Media Advisor, (02) 6246 9309, nacchonews@naccho.org.au

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