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Indigenous Australians at greater risk of blindness


NAIDOC Week (3-10 July)

As we celebrate Indigenous achievements, culture and history during NAIDOC week, we cannot ignore how far we still have to go to ‘Close the Gap’ in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Did you know Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 8 times more likely to have diabetes compared to the rest of the population? Or that 1 in 3 people with diabetes have diabetic eye disease, putting them at risk of losing their sight?

“We need earlier screening and treatment for diabetic retinopathy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. A 2011 study showed that just over half of those with clinically significant diabetic macular oedema and less than 40% of those with the early signs of diabetic retinopathy consulted a health care provider in the preceding year,” said Dr Mohamed Dirani, Head of Health Services and Evaluative Research at CERA.

Dr Dirani led the recent National Eye Health Survey, which included 1,738 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 40 years or older from all over the country. Results are due to be published later this year but Dr Dirani says that preliminary data shows there is still a substantial gap between the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. “There are some promising signs that eye health services are reaching our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, but there is a significant amount of work yet to be done,” he said.

The National Eye Health Survey was conducted in partnership with Vision 2020 Australia and was supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Chronic Disease Prevention and Service Improvement Fund, with other contributions coming from CERA, OPSM, Novartis, Zeiss, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Optometry Australia, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.