• Indigenous Australians suffer from vision loss at 2.8 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Better access to eye testing, affordable glasses and timely medical treatment could save the sight of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Douglas Smith

7 Aug 2019 - 5:35 PM  UPDATED 7 Aug 2019 - 5:35 PM

Government data suggests Indigenous eye health is improving but advocates say that more is needed to address issues including blurred vision, cataracts and diabetic vision loss.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released its Indigenous Eye Health Measures 2018 report on Tuesday.

The figures in the report showed that the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who accessed professional eye examinations increased to 16 per cent in 2017-18 from 13 per cent in 2007-08.

Trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, fell to 3.8 per cent in 2017 from 14 per cent in 2009 in Indigenous children aged between five and nine in “at-risk communities”.

There were also 40 per cent more Indigenous patients who received cataract surgeries in hospitals over the last 10 years.

However, the data also showed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people waited longer for cataract surgery. On average, Indigenous patients waited 141 days for cataract surgery - 52 days more than non-Indigenous patients.

Vision 2020 Australia, the country's peak body for the eye sector, said more efforts needed to be made to ‘close the eye health and vision gap’.

The organisation suggested subsidising more eyeglasses, more frequent diabetes screenings and improving access to publicly funded cataract surgery.

“Too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still experience vision loss that could be avoided through better access to eye testing, affordable glasses and timely treatment,” said Judith Abbot, Vision 2020’s CEO.

“Strong Eyes, Strong Communities provides a practical set of actions to end avoidable blindness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, developed and endorsed by 18 leading organisations involved in eye care and broader health delivery."