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NAIDOC Week: Indigenous Eye Health

3 July 2016

With NAIDOC Week falling within the month of JulEYE what better a time to learn more about Indigenous eye health?

The 2008 National Indigenous Eye Health Survey found that if you are an Indigenous Australian adult you are 6 times more likely to suffer from blindness and 3 times more likely to experience low vision compared to other Australians.

The main causes of blindness are cataracts, refractive error, diabetic retinopathy and trachoma. It is estimated that over the next 10 years, as many as 34,000 Indigenous Australians will experience blindness or low vision as a result of these conditions.

Blindness is both a result and a cause of poverty. It creates difficulty in coping with even the most simple of tasks and can severely limit opportunities in education, employment and social engagement. It can also result in dependence on services and on other people.

So what is being done about it?

The Eye Surgeons Foundation (ESF) have been working towards rural, remote and Indigenous development through the funding of long-term projects such as the Kimberly and Pilbara Diabetic Eye Care Program.

The Kimberly and Pilbara regions have the lowest coverage of eye care services in all of Australia. Beginning in 2008 with the Minum Barreng Project, the ESF have significantly improved access to eye care, and helped reduce eye disease and prevent diabetes induced blindness in these remote regions.Each year the Diabetic Eye Care Program screens approximately 1,500 patients in The Kimberly and Pilbara and is helping approximately 500 patients manage their diabetic eye conditions.

Eye surgeons in Perth are also utilising every day technology to provide outreach services to both larger regional centres and smaller remote communities. Patients in remote areas now have the ability to have their eyes tested by eye surgeons over 2,000 km away!
ESF are also in collaboration with Lions Eye Institute (WA) and local health services, providing education, training and awareness to ensure a sustainable future of eye care in these regions.

Since 2010, the ESF have screened and treated more than 5,000 Aboriginals and continue to provide essential services and education to the Kimberley and Pilbara regions today.

However these projects come at no small cost and rely on ongoing funding, you can show your support by donating today at:

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RANZCO - The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists - The Leaders in Collaborative Eye Care
ASO - Australian Society of Ophthalmologists

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