Peak eye health organisation Vision 2020 Australia has welcomed the Australian Government’s commitment of $16.5 million in today’s budget to tackle the blinding eye infection trachoma in Indigenous communities. But more needs to be done to close the gap in vision.
Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon said the new funding would boost screening and treatment in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.
“The commitment in today’s budget is great news for Indigenous eye health,” Ms Gersbeck said.
“Australia is the only developed country in the world where trachoma is endemic, and despite falling rates in this country, it still affects 60 per cent of outback Indigenous communities,” she said.
“But we must not forget that trachoma is only one condition which impacts the eye health of Indigenous Australians.”
“Four conditions are responsible for 94 per cent of vision loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
“More needs to be done to eliminate uncorrected refractive error, cataract and diabetic retinopathy which can lead to vision loss and in some cases blindness if undetected.”
Ms Gersbeck said there was currently a significant disparity between the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and mainstream Australians.
“Blindness rates in Indigenous adults are six times higher, and vision impairment nearly three times higher, than that of the wider Australian adult community,” she said.
“What is worse, despite 94 per cent of vision loss among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being preventable or treatable some 35 per cent of adults have never had an eye exam.
About Vision 2020 Australia
Established in October 2000, Vision 2020 Australia is part of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global initiative of the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
Vision 2020 Australia represents over 60 member organisations involved in: local and global eye care; health promotion; low vision support; vision rehabilitation; eye research; professional assistance and community support.
Louise Rudzki, Vision 2020 Australia, (03) 9656 2020, +61 414 784 359, firstname.lastname@example.org