Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet
http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au

 

What do we know about eye health among Indigenous people?

  • Home
    • » Health facts
      • » Health FAQs
        • » What do we know about eye health among Indigenous people?

What is eye health?

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:

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.

What is known about eye health in the Indigenous population?

Many Indigenous people do not have access to specialised eye health services, including optometrists and ophthalmologists (specialist eye doctors) [3]. As a result, Indigenous people are more likely than non-Indigenous people to suffer from poor eye health that is preventable. In the 2004-2005 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS), eye and/or sight problems were reported by almost one-third of Indigenous people [4].

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 [5]. 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. 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 [5].

According to the 2008 NIEHS, blindness was six times more common for Indigenous adults than for total population adults [5]. The main causes of blindness for Indigenous adults were:

For Indigenous children, the 2008 NIEHS found they had better vision than other children in Australia, especially in remote areas [5]. There were similar findings in the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS) [6]. The 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) found that almost one-in-ten Indigenous children had an eye or sight problem [7]

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 Bureau of Statistics (2006) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Australia, 2004-05. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  5. 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
  6. Zubrick SR, Lawrence DM, Silburn SR, Blair E, Milroy H, Wilkes T, Eades S, D'Antoine H, Read AW, Ishiguchi P, Doyle S (2004) The health of Aboriginal children and young people [volumes 1-4]. Perth: Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
  7. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social survey, 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2011 from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4714.0?OpenDocument
 
© 2001-2014 Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet