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

What is known about eye health in the Indigenous population?

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

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

Many Indigenous people do not have access to specialised eye health services, including optometrists and ophthalmologists (specialist eye doctors) [4][5]. As a result, Indigenous people are more likely than non-Indigenous people to suffer from poor eye health that is preventable.

In the 2012-2013 AATSIHS, eye and sight problems were reported by one-third of Indigenous people [6]. The 2008 National Indigenous eye health survey (NIEHS) found that low vision was nearly three times more common for Indigenous adults than for other Australian adults [7]. Overall, 3% of Indigenous adults suffered vision loss caused by cataracts, but only 65% of Indigenous people who needed cataract surgery received it. Refractive error caused one-half of vision loss in both adults and children.

Diabetes, a major problem for Indigenous people, can cause eye disease and loss of vision [8][9]. The 2008 NIEHS found that only one-in-five Indigenous people with diabetes had had an eye examination within the last year, and just over one-in-ten had sight problems [7].

According to the 2008 NIEHS, blindness was six times more common for Indigenous adults than for those in the total population [7]. The main causes of blindness for Indigenous adults were [10]:

For Indigenous children, the 2008 NIEHS found they had better vision than other children in Australia, especially in remote areas [7]. The 2012-2013 AATSIHS found that one-in-eleven Indigenous children had an eye or sight problem [11].

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. 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
  5. Commonwealth of Australia (2005) National framework for action to promote eye health and prevent avoidable blindness and vision loss. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: first results, Australia, 2012-13. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  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. 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
  11. 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
 
Last updated: 25 September 2014
 
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