Blindness and vision impairment appear to be declining in Australia according to the findings of the first ever National Eye Health Survey, released on World Sight Day 2016. Rates of vision impairment were also found to be lower in Australia when compared to other high income countries.
The National Eye Health Survey, led by Vision 2020 Australia and the Centre for Eye Research Australia, is the first comprehensive national survey of the prevalence of vision loss in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and provides a benchmark against which to measure national progression in eye health and vision care.
The findings of the survey will assist in the shaping of eye health policy, delivery of services and will provide a benchmark for monitoring progress towards reaching the World Health Organization’s target of a 25 per cent reduction in the prevalence of avoidable blindness and vision impairment by 2019.
Vision 2020 Australia CEO, Carla Northam, said the survey findings support the need for eye health and vision care to remain a priority in Australia.
“The survey findings confirm that we are making progress in reducing the prevalence of vision impairment and blindness and that our eye health and vision care system is improving; however there is more work to be done.”
- The NEHS is the first comprehensive national survey of the prevalence of vision impairment and blindness in Australia.
- The results of the NEHS show that vision impairment and blindness appear to be on the decline in Australia when referenced against earlier select population group studies.
- The prevalence of vision impairment is lower in Australia when compared to other high income countries.
While there are signs of progress in reducing the prevalence of major eye conditions, the survey found that:
- The prevalence of vision impairment and blindness among Indigenous Australians is 3x higher than non-Indigenous Australians.
- The prevalence of vision impairment and blindness doubles with each decade over 60 years for non-Indigenous Australians.
- Uncorrected refractive error causes almost two thirds of vision impairment among both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This could be corrected immediately with the right pair of glasses.
- Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among non-Indigenous Australians.
- Cataract is the leading cause of blindness among Indigenous Australians.
The survey showed the importance of regular eye examinations and access to services, highlighting that:
- The proportion of Australians with vision impairment is higher in outer regional and very remote areas when compared to other areas.
- More than 50 per cent of participants found to have an eye condition didn’t know they had that condition prior to taking part in the NEHS, and one third of all participants were referred to an eye health professional.
- Almost 40 per cent of Indigenous Australians and 13 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians who need cataract surgery have not accessed specialist treatment services.
- Half of Indigenous participants and a quarter of non-Indigenous participants with diabetes are not having an eye examination at the frequency recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council.