Significant eye health and vision problems experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be reversed according to reports conducted by the University of Melbourne and the Australian Institute of Indigenous Studies.
Blindness rates among Indigenous Australians are six times those in mainstream Australia and there is a major shortfall in the provision of eye care services to Indigenous communities.
The reports reviewed more than thirty years of Indigenous eye health policy maps, estimated the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia with eye disease and vision loss and the workforce required to address the problems.
Professor Hugh Taylor AC said the findings are a vital step in the nation’s quest to close the gap between Indigenous and non- Indigenous health.
Nationally there are 250,000 cataract operations performed each year. It would take only an additional 3,000 operations for Indigenous Australians to eliminate cataract blindness in these communities
“These reports demonstrate the extent of eye disease and vision loss amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and outline how new policy can be effectively introduced to improve Indigenous eye health throughout Australia, including the elimination of trachoma,” he said. “Across the whole country, by adding just eight full-time equivalent ophthalmologists and approximately 40 to 60 full-time equivalent optometrists to work with Indigenous communities we will meet the current eye health needs.
“Nationally there are 250,000 cataract operations performed each year. It would take only an additional 3,000 operations for Indigenous Australians to eliminate cataract blindness in these communities.”