A new campaign has been launched to increase the number of eye health checks undertaken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients in Queensland and to reduce the rate of preventable eye disease.
Laura Morelli

21 Sep 2016 - 1:36 PM  UPDATED 21 Sep 2016 - 1:36 PM

The campaign is being implemented by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) with funding from The Fred Hollows Foundation, and builds on their existing partnership across the region.

The Fred Hollows Foundation Founding Director, Gabi Hollows, says the partnership was a successful model for bringing eye health care to communities.

"94% of vision loss for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is preventable or treatable if caught early."

“The Deadly Urban Eyes campaign is a great program that will make a difference in the vital eye health care sector.”

Jaki Adams-Barton, The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Manager of the Indigenous Australia Program says their focus is to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander children get their eyes checked annually.

“Getting your eyes checked regularly is key given 94% of vision loss for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is preventable or treatable if caught early,” she said.

“Our program focuses on reducing rates of cataract, diabetic retinopathy uncorrected refractive error and trachoma in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

The launch was held at the Murri Rugby League Carnival at Dolphin Oval in Redcliffe, which saw hundreds of people including rugby players and spectators flock to the Eye Health Van, where people who got their eyes checked received a Deadly Eyes gift pack, including sunglasses, lens cloth and spray, as an incentive.

IUIH Chief Executive Officer Adrian Carson says that the program will improve access to preventative eye health services and reduce rates of eye disease.

“We know that untreated eye disease is a key contributor to preventable blindness among our community and is often caused by other diseases that affect our people such as diabetes and hypertension.

“This campaign will see more people checking in with our optometrists on a regular basis, so we can pick up and treat these diseases early, and close the gap in health outcomes in our community.

The launch adds a new dimension to the hugely successful Deadly Choices social marketing campaign which has seen an average 50% year-on-year increase in the number of preventative health checks performed at IUIH’s 18 member clinics across South East Queensland.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders know that a deadly choice is the right choice."

Ms Adams-Barton says this is important for the Fred Hollows Foundation because it allows employees to work with people supporting this initiative. 

“We can really get the eye health message out there and inform people about the importance of prevention. It’s also about connecting with community and helping them understand why this is such an important issue.”

Ms Adams-Barton their partnership with IUIH enables them to work with a comprehensive primary health care and a holistic health approach.

“Usually eyes are the last thing people think about, so working together means eyes now come first,” she said.

“The comprehensive approach means it’s a sustainable model because you’re looking after the whole body including the eyes, and that’s for every individual that walks through the door.”

“Deadly choices is a campaign that’s proven to work and because deadly is a word our mob use it’s attracted our people to participate and also makes them proud to work with us and know that a deadly choice is the right choice.”

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