Children and community members in the remote APY Lands are creating awareness about trachoma through song.
Laura Morelli

25 Nov 2016 - 12:42 PM  UPDATED 25 Nov 2016 - 2:20 PM

'Let's get rid of Trachoma in the APY lands' is the latest hit from the Thumbs Up program, and it's catchy, creative and most importantly educative.

The lyrics tell you not to share towels and to wash your face and hands in order to stay healthy.

The video features the voice of a very talented young man named Aaron Fraser, from Kenmore Park APY Lands, South Australia.

Vision loss caused by refractive error, cataracts, diabetes and the painful eye disease trachoma that is present in some remote Indigenous communities but are all easily prevented.

"Australia is the only first world country that still has the preventable disease."

World-recognised ophthalmologist Hugh Taylor AC says there has been a chronic failure of policy focus and co-ordination to simply ensure services get to where they are needed.

“It isn’t rocket science, it isn’t a new technique or treatment. It’s simply about making sure that people are getting the care they need,” says Professor Taylor, who leads the University’s Indigenous Eye Health Group.

“Half the vision loss, for example, is just due to the lack of a pair of glasses and that could be fixed right away.”

The Trachoma Goanna, known as Milpa, helped the musicians from Pukatja Street Reggae Band in Ernabella. David Morris is on the guitar, Ben Thompson bangs the bass, Nelson Peters beats the drums and Nathaniel Kulyuru kills the keyboards. Lois and Hazel Fraser are also singing on the language choruses.

The Indigenous Eye Health group conducted a survey based on the neglect of Indigenous eye care in a 2008 compiled in collaboration with the Centre for Eye Research Australia. One of the biggest causes of vision loss among Australians is cataract, in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded.

56% of Australians wore glasses for distance but only 20% of Indigenous Australians did so, suggesting many were simply making do with poor vision.

The Indigenous Eye Health, in collaboration with the Centre for Eye Research Australia, compiled a survey to examine the full extent of the neglect of Indigenous eye care in a 2008.

The report revealed that while 56 per cent of Australians wore glasses for distance, only 20 per cent of Indigenous Australians did so, suggesting many were simply making do with poor vision.

Trachoma trouble:

One of the most shocking findings from the survey was the persistence of the blinding disease trachoma in some remote Indigenous communities. Australia is the only wealthy country where trachoma still persists and many poorer countries have eliminated it.

It is a bacterial infection similar to conjunctivitis, but repeated infection eventually scars the underneath of the eyelid, causing the eyelashes to grow painfully inward and scaring the surface of the eye itself. Unless treated the resulting loss of vision will become irreparable blindness.

While active trachoma is treatable with antibiotics, the big problem is reinfection, especially among children. The disease is spread through infected secretions from the eye and nose, and can be eliminated if children have adequate facilities for washing and drying their faces, and there is sufficient health screening.

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