A colloquium on Indigenous Eye Health held at the 12th National Rural Health Conference Adelaide, 7-10 of April, showcased the significance of the coordination of eye health services in Aboriginal Community Controlled Services (AMSs). In rural and remote parts of Australia, Regional Eye Health Coordinators have a pivotal role in delivering eye care services to Aboriginal communities. Despite their function, training has never been nationally endorsed for eye health workers.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have higher rates of vision impairment than other Australians.The colloquium encouraged the formulation of agreed proposals for policy and program initiatives. Indigenous eye care were among the 17 key recommendations presented to Health Minister, Hon Tanya Plibersek. This proved a successful feat for eye care, considering the broad range of topics in the area of rural and remote health.
The recent National Indigenous Eye Health Survey revealed that the majority (94%) of vision loss affecting Indigenous Australians is avoidable (preventable or treatable), largely by conditions which are amenable to straightforward treatment such as a pair of spectacles or out-patient surgery or laser treatment.Some of the barriers in accessing eye care for Aboriginal people are; geographic remoteness, affordability or lack of community awareness of eye health and available eye services.
Education Development Officer from the Institute, Salma Ismail, presented at the conference training needs and developed competency units for a national Regional Eye Health Coordinator training package and explained the process of recommending an ‘eye care skills set’ for national adoption and endorsement by the Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council. Project Manager of the Aboriginal Vision Program, Anna Morse, discussed how high rates of uncorrected refractive error experienced by Aboriginal people may suggest that the existing subsidised spectacle scheme may not be meeting the need and looked at whether a national spectacle scheme could be more effective.
Taylor HR, Keeffe JE, Arnold AL, Dunn RA, Fox SS, Goujon N, et al. National Indigenous Eye Health Survey, Minum Barreng (Tracking Eyes). Melbourne, Australia: Indigenous Eye Health Unit, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, 2009.