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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin
 
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spacing1What do we know about eye health among Indigenous people?

Healthy eyes are important for everyday life; they are needed to read and study, play sports, drive, and work [1]. A number of problems can affect the health of the eye [2]. The most common conditions are [3]:

Eye health is affected by getting older, smoking, injuries, exposure to ultra-violet (UV) light from the sun, and not eating enough healthy food [2]. Eye problems can result in low vision (not being able to see properly) which can be improved with glasses, contact lenses or eye surgery [4]. Eye problems can also result in impaired eyesight and blindness.

In the 2012-2013 AATSIHS, eye and sight problems were reported by [5][6][7]:

The 2008 National Indigenous eye health survey (NIEHS) found [8]:

Refractive error was the most common cause of low vision and caused one-half of vision loss in both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children [8]. Cataract was the leading cause of blindness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in 2008.

Diabetes, a major problem for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, can cause eye disease (diabetic retinopathy) and loss of vision [9][10]. Blinding diabetic retinopathy (damage to the small blood vessels in the back of the eye) was 30 times more common among Indigenous adults than non-Indigenous adults in the 2008 NIEHS. Only one-in-five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes had had an eye examination within the previous year [8].

Trachoma still occurs in some remote areas of NT, WA and SA. The overall levels of trachoma in these communities have reduced from 14% in 2009 to 4% in 2014. It has been suggested that targeted screening, treatment and health promotion programs have contributed to the decrease of trachoma.

Most eye problems are preventable and treatable [11], however, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not have access to specialised eye health services from providers such as optometrists and ophthalmologists (specialist eye doctors) [12][13]. As a result, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely than non-Indigenous people to have poor eye health that is preventable.

References

  1. Eye health education resource kit: I see for culture (2009) International Centre for Eyecare Education
  2. Burns J, Thomson N (2003) Eye health. In: Thomson N, ed. The health of Indigenous Australians. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press: 273-289
  3. Taylor HR, Boudville A, Anjou M, McNeil R (2011) The roadmap to close the gap for vision: summary report. Melbourne: Indigenous Eye Health Unit, the University of Melbourne
  4. Australian Department of Health and Ageing, Victorian Department of Human Services (2005) Eye health in Australia: a background paper to the national framework for action to promote eye health and prevent avoidable blindness and vision loss. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: first results, Australia, 2012-13: Table 3 [data cube]. Retrieved 27 November 2013 from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&table%203%20selected%20health%20characteristics,%20by%20state_territory%202012-13-australia.xls&4727.0.55.001&Data%20Cubes&D43DB1D697BED77ECA257C2F00145D04&0&2012-13&27.11.2013&Latest
  6. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: first results, Australia, 2012-13: Table 6 [data cube]. Retrieved 26 March 2014 from
  7. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: first results, Australia, 2012-13: Table 4 [data cube]. Retrieved 27 November 2013 from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&table%204%20selected%20health%20characteristics,%20by%20sex%202012-13-australia.xls&4727.0.55.001&Data%20Cubes&497BBEB2AFC1B23DCA257C2F00145D2E&0&2012-13&27.11.2013&Latest
  8. Taylor HR, National Indigenous Eye Health Survey Team (2009) National Indigenous eye health survey: minum barreng (tracking eyes): full report. Melbourne: Indigenous Eye Health Unit, The University of Melbourne
  9. Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (2001) Specialist eye health guidelines for use in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care
  10. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: first results, Australia, 2012-13. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  11. Taylor HR, National Indigenous Eye Health Survey Team (2009) National Indigenous eye health survey: minum barreng (tracking eyes): summary report. Melbourne: Indigenous Eye Health Unit, The University of Melbourne
  12. Kelaher M, Ferdinand A, Ngo S, Tambuwla N, Taylor HR (2010) Access to eye health services among Indigenous Australians: an area level analysis. Melbourne: Indigenous Eye Health Unit, Melbourne School of Population Health
  13. Commonwealth of Australia (2005) National framework for action to promote eye health and prevent avoidable blindness and vision loss. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia
 
Last updated: 17 June 2015
 
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