Before the federal Government closed for the Christmas break, Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced much needed funding for Indigenous Australians- an additional $20.8 million for trachoma activities.
Trachoma is an easily preventable infectious eye disease which can lead to vision impairment and blindness. Some 50 developing countries throughout Africa and Asia are affected by this infectious eye disease, particularly in rural areas where hygiene tends to be poor.
Australia is the only high-income country in the world with trachoma and it is prevalent in 60 per cent of outback communities. However, Australia has committed to eliminate trachoma by the year 2020.
Despite being born with better eyesight than non-Indigenous Australians, the prevalence of blindness and vision impairment in Indigenous Australians is three times higher than non-Indigenous Australians. Trachoma has been an important contributor to this.
Through collaborative efforts in eye health and vision care research and previous funding from the Australian government, rates of trachoma have dropped substantially. Between 2008 and 2015 rates of trachoma in children in outback communities decreased from 21% to 4.6%.
The additional $20.8 million funding will allow the continued activities of the trachoma elimination program for four years from 2017-18. The funding announcement was part of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO 2016-17) update on Monday 19 December.
Vision 2020 Australia, and the eye health and vision care sector, congratulates the Australian Government on its ongoing commitment to eliminating trachoma and looks forward to working with the Government in the lead up to 2020 to ensure that the disease is eliminated in Australia.
“To date, Australia has made good progress in reducing the rates of trachoma, but more work is required to achieve its elimination by 2020, and this commitment of additional and ongoing funding is critical to safeguard the ongoing work of the trachoma program and ensure the disease is eliminated,” said Vision 2020 Australia CEO Carla Northam.
Deputy Chair of Vision 2020 Australia and Harold Mitchell Chair of Indigenous Eye Health ophthalmologist Professor Hugh Taylor said “We are really seeing some striking progress but we still need to focus on the hot spots.”
In 2016, in the lead up to the Federal Election, Vision 2020 Australia advocated for the ongoing implementation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) SAFE (surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness, environmental improvements) Strategy.
The SAFE Strategy is designed to prevent, treat and eliminate trachoma; and Australia, alongside WHO and its partners, committed in 2009 to its implementation as part of the Alliance for Global Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020 (GET2020).
For more information: Adam Sawell at Vision 2020 Australia
About Vision 2020 Australia
Vision 2020 Australia is the national peak body for the eye health and vision care sector, representing 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 Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.