The need for sustained action to improve eye health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

  • Eye health report cover

A new review summarises the available evidence on the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Written by Dr Hessom Razavi, an ophthalmologist working with the Lions Eye Institute, and Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet research staff, the Review of eye health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2018) has been published by the HealthInfoNet and aims to assist people working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector by informing evidence-based health practice and program and policy development.

For frequently overburdened, isolated and time-poor health professionals working in rural and remote communities, staying up-to-date with the latest research can be almost impossible. The HealthInfoNet’s peer-reviewed eye health review assists by providing detailed information about the leading causes of vision loss among Aboriginal and Torres Strait people, including uncorrected or under-corrected refractive error, cataract and diabetic retinopathy.

The review summarises findings from the latest journal articles, government reports, national data collections and surveys. It covers a range of topics, including: the historical, social and cultural context; contributing risk and protective factors; prevalence, incidence and hospitalisation; prevention and management; programs and services; and policies and strategies.

Findings from the review
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people often begin life with better vision than the rest of the Australian community, however this trend reverses by adulthood. Data collected in the 2008 National Indigenous Eye Health Survey and the 2016 National Eye Health Survey indicate that some measures of eye health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have improved, including the prevalence of blindness, spectacle coverage rate and cataract surgery rate. Also, efforts to address trachoma have led to a clear reduction in its prevalence among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. It is encouraging that approximately 80 per cent of vision loss from uncorrected refractive error, cataract and diabetic retinopathy is avoidable through early detection, prevention and treatment

However, significant gaps remain across all measures when comparing the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people. Data from the 2008 and 2016 eye health surveys demonstrate that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults continue to experience a three-fold higher prevalence of vision loss compared with non-Indigenous adults. The data also demonstrate that vision loss among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults is more common in outer regional areas than in other areas.

The 2018 eye health review highlights the need for sustained action to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health. Many communities, researchers, practitioners and policy makers are committed to improving eye health, and many community-controlled, government and non-government organisations have initiated important eye health services and programs, but there is still much to be done.

Knowledge exchange to support the health sector
The eye health review is an example of the knowledge exchange activities undertaken by the HealthInfoNet to meet the information needs of people working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector. The HealthInfoNet has been working in the area of knowledge exchange for more than 20 years, making research and other information readily available to support practitioners and policy-makers to make evidence-based decisions.

The  Review of eye health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is available on the HealthInfoNet website: www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/learn/health-facts/reviews-knowledge-exchange-products.

There is also an extensive online collection of other eye health publications, programs, policies and resources on the HealthInfoNet’s Eye Health Portal.

The HealthInfoNet website’s new responsive design ensures that all the information can be easily accessed on any device—computer, laptop, tablet, or smart phone.

For further information contact healthinfonet@ecu.edu.au

 

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