Health professionals looking to bridge the gap in eye care for Indigenous communities have designed a new Eye & Vision Care Toolkit.
Eye problems in Indigenous communities are far higher than non-Indigenous people: rates of blindness in general are six times higher and diabetes-related blindness are 14 times higher.
Furthermore, the National Indigenous Eye Health Survey indicates 94% of vision loss is preventable or treatable.
Remoteness, cultural differences and follow through on health issues from diagnosis to treatment are persistent barriers, says Selina Madeleine, Global Communications Manager of the Brien Holden Vision Institute.
The Indigenous eye care toolkit addresses these identified gaps in the system by allowing health workers to assess current health care practices, and includes referral flowcharts and information that can be sent electronically, as well as eye testing kits.
The toolkit is also made with consideration of Indigenous community perspectives, says Madeleine.
“I don’t think there’s anything quite like this out there, specifically targeting improved eye care outcomes within the Indigenous population,” she adds.
The kit has been used for five years across NSW and the Northern Territory and measurements over the last two years show an increase in optometry examinations from 51% to 97% and in ophthalmology services from 28% to 93%.
Follow through from use of the Indigenous eye care toolkit has also jumped, with the proportion of referred individuals with diabetic retinopathy who saw an ophthalmologist up from 25% to 54%, and those referred for cataracts and who received surgery up from just 3% to 32%.
More funding needed
The toolkit is now being disseminated to hundreds of other health care workers in these states and Madeleine says the Institute plans to role it out further.
“We would like to role this out in other states across Australia because it has been so successful in the places we’ve used it so far.”
Madeline says a lack of funding is all that is preventing the widespread adoption of the toolkit elsewhere.
– Guy Fenton