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The Indigenous eye health workers’ portal aims to empower the health workforce to identify and address eye health problems among Indigenous people. The portal will improve access, and promote awareness of appropriate eye health information, and resources. The Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) has provided funding for the Indigenous eye health workers’ portal.
Development of the Indigenous eye health workers’ portal is being undertaken by the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet in partnership with the Brien Holden Vision Institute. Its development is being guided by a national Reference Group, an informal national network of people working in the field of Indigenous eye health.
The development of the Eye health workers' portal is in response to the vital need to improve approaches to reducing vision loss and blindness, which are serious public health problems for Indigenous Australians. According to the 2008 National Indigenous Eye Health Survey, the burden of eye disease faced by Indigenous people is disproportionate to the mainstream Australian population, and a result of complex interplay between a large number of medical, social and cultural factors.
The 2008 national survey demonstrated that Indigenous children have better vision than non-Indigenous children. Nearly 80% of all adults had self-reported eye problems. Although 83% of those with eye problems had sought care, 64% of these individuals reported that their vision problems had not been resolved. Most vision loss (94%) among Indigenous people is preventable or treatable, yet over a third of all adults has never had an eye examination. Of particular concern, Indigenous people aged 40 and over have six times the rate of blindness compared to the mainstream.
These statistics identify a significant gap in service provision, particularly in rural and remote areas, where problems like trachoma are especially severe. Australia is the only developed country in the world to still have endemic blinding trachoma. For many Indigenous communities, poor access to appropriate and culturally safe services is compounded by geographical isolation, economic disadvantage, and prevalence of a large number of other health problems (such as chronic diseases).
There is a large body of knowledge about how best to prevent, diagnose, treat and manage eye disease and associated vision loss and blindness, but many people involved in the area of Indigenous eye health work in remote areas of Australia and do not have ready access to good quality information and resources.
The Eye health workers' portal includes: key facts; resources; programs and projects; publications; and links. It also includes relevant workforce information.
The resource has been designed to cater to an audience of mixed cultural and educational backgrounds. Some people will not have ready access to the Internet and so the resource will actively encourage the downloading of material for use by Indigenous families and communities.
Development of this web resource and the associated yarning place is guided by a national Reference Group. The EyeInfoNet Reference Group, comprising people working as practitioners, and/or researchers in the area of eye health among Indigenous peoples, provides advice on:
Members of the EyeInfoNet Reference Group can be found here.