• Indigenous eye health is improving across Australia, but more needs to be done to close the gap for vision, according to a report from the AIHW. (File)Source: File
Despite eye health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being on track for a Close of the Gap 2020 goal, experts are calling for more to be done to tackle the issue.
Rangi Hirini

16 Mar 2018 - 11:57 AM  UPDATED 16 Mar 2018 - 11:57 AM

More than 150 Indigenous eye care workers participated in a conference at Melbourne’s University on Thursday.

Hosted by Indigenous Eye Health (IEH) is a unit at the University of Melbourne and was established by Professor Hugh Taylor.

IEH has been assessing the need, barriers and enablers to eye health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In 2008 there was a national survey conducted for eye health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the nation.

Professor Taylor spoke to NITV News and said there has been ‘real progress’ since 2008.

 “While Aboriginal children had much better vision than non-Indigenous kids, by the time they reached the age of 14 and above there was three times as much vision loss, and six times as much blindness compared the rest of the country,” he said.

In 2016, data revealed the gap on Indigenous vision had halved from six times more likely to three times.

“We’re making real progress but three times is still no acceptable and still a lot more work that needs to be done,” Professor Taylor said.

Although Indigenous children’s eye sight is better, once they start to grow their sight can still deteriorate due to a number of factors.

According to Professor Taylor that mostly stems from a lack of eye care.

“It’s really the kids’ vision  is okay until they reach the ages of 30,  40 or 50   when they start to have these other eye diseases developing – as I mentioned diabetes being one of the most important, the simple need of for a pair of glasses or the developed of cataract and needing surgery for them,” he explained.

The Roadmap for Close the Gap for Vision was launched in 2012 and is now active in 41 regions, covering more than two thirds of the country’s Indigenous population.

Roadmap successes include increased cataract surgery funding, optometry and ophthalmology visits, new Medicare listings supporting eye care screening, health promotion, regional and jurisdictional oversight and new diabetic retinopathy cameras and training.