Tag Archives: Indigenous

New vision for Indigenous eye care

Health professionals looking to bridge the gap in eye care for Indigenous communities have designed a new Eye & Vision Care Toolkit.

The toolkit, from the Vision Collaborative Research Centre and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, equips medical practitioners with a set of practical and scalable resources for improved eye health.

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

Closing the gap

Romlie Mokak, CEO of the Lowitja Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research, is a man with a vision.

“We’ve got a clear agenda for the future and it’s for just 15 years ahead: 2030. This agenda has been agreed upon by governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership as part of the ‘Close the Gap’ campaign,” said Mokak.

The aim is to eliminate the difference in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians by 2030. It’s a big ambition that will take a lot of work.

“It’s essential that solutions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing come from the people themselves,” he said. A vital step is explicit recognition of Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution, supported by the Recognise Health coalition launched by the Lowitja Institute in March 2015.

“If we hit the target, then by 2040 we will have had 10 years with no gap. We will have a high quality, accessible health system that is culturally appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Since 1997, the Lowitja Institute and its predecessor CRCs have led a substantial reform agenda in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research by working with communities, researchers and policymakers. In partnership with 21 participants, the CRC is poised to make a substantial contribution to the goals for 2030 and towards a 2040 that sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation and leadership in all walks of Australian life.

— Clare Pain


Feature image: Smoking ceremony conducted by Wurunjeri Elder Aunty Joy Wandin Murphy at the Lowitja Institute CRC launch in October 2014.