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REPORT: Cataract surgery rates 30% lower for Indigenous Australians a growing concern

Indigenous Australians are much less likely to have accessed cataract surgery to treat their condition than non-Indigenous Australians, says a research paper published in the September issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.

According to the paper, cataract surgery coverage rates are more than 30 per cent lower for the Indigenous than the non-Indigenous community.

“This means there remains a large number of Indigenous Australians with vision loss due to cataract, that could be easily treated with a simple surgical procedure that can restore vision overnight,” said Dr Stuart Keel, a researcher at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) and one of the authors of the paper.

The research draws on data collected between March 2015 and April 2016 for the largest ever eye-health survey carried out in Australia, the National Eye Health Survey (NEHS). 3098 non-Indigenous Australians aged 50 years or more and 1738 Indigenous Australians aged 40 years or more were recruited and examined for the survey carried out jointly by CERA and Vision 2020 Australia.

Dr Keel said the findings show that improvements in access to cataract services are warranted in Indigenous communities.

“As distance is often a key barrier to accessing services, building more sustainable cataract surgery and post-operative services within communities is important,” he said.

“While it is clear that some improvements have occurred…. continued efforts and additional resources are required to further close the gap in Indigenous eye health,”
he said.