THE HON WARREN SNOWDON MP
Minister for Indigenous Health
27 May 2011
The Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, has announced funding of $880,000 for the purchase of eye health testing and treatment equipment for mobile eye health teams in Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience a disproportionately high rate of eye diseases, including cataracts at a rate 12 times higher, and blindness rates 6.2 times higher,” Mr Snowdon said.
"The good news is that with the latest technology, the majority of operations using this equipment can be done in clinics in communities, reducing dislocation and stress and maximising patient attendance and clinical quality," he said.
The project will be managed by the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists, and the new equipment will help provide more eye health care and surgery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions in rural areas.
A list of the regions that will benefit is attached.
Mr Snowdon announced the Australian Government is also funding a range of resources to support the national network of some 23 Regional Eye Health Coordinators in the NT, SA, WA, QLD, NSW and Victoria.
“These resources include two satellite TV broadcast programs for eye health professionals and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through the Regional Health Education Foundation, a national workshop for coordinators organised by Vision 2020 Australia on 28-29 June and a planned ‘EyeInfoNet’ web resource to be developed by Edith Cowan University this year.”
The announcements come as Mr Snowdon visited the University of Melbourne today to launch two new reports by one of Australia’s pre-eminent eye health units.
The reports, entitled A Critical History of Indigenous Eye Health Policy Making – Towards Effective Systems Reform, and Projected Needs for Eye Care Services for Indigenous Australians, are expected to be influential in future policy reforms and were created under the guidance of Professor Hugh Taylor.
“These reports are the latest in a much anticipated series of authoritative reports from the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne.
“I welcome and commend these latest reports, and thank Professor Taylor and colleagues for their continued efforts to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health,” Mr Snowdon said.
“The Australian Government recognises that poor eye and ear health has a big impact on Indigenous Australians’ lives, education and employment opportunities.
“That’s why we have committed $58.3 million to specifically improve eye and ear health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians,” Mr Snowdon said.
These new services are underway with $16 million to expand trachoma control in Indigenous communities in WA, SA and NT, and nearly $6.5 million to expand optometrist visits to 106 rural and remote areas through the Visiting Optometrists Scheme.
So far this has achieved:
- 142 eye surgical procedures completed through three eye surgery intensives in Alice Springs in 2009-10 and 2010-11;
- 205 more optometry visits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in rural and remote locations in 2009-10 and 2010-11; and
- The expansion of three existing trachoma control programs to enable more than 130 Aboriginal communities across 15 regions from the NT, WA and SA to be screened, and where appropriate treated, at least once every year under the measure.
For more information, contact Mr Snowdon’s office (02) 6277 7820
The following regions will benefit from the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists initiative:
- SA/NT – Cross border regions and Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY Lands), Port Lincoln, Yalata and Oak Valley
- WA – Derby (Kimberly), Karratha and Roeburne (Pilbara)
- NSW – Cobar, Bourke, Brewarria, Walgett, Lightning Ridge (Western NSW)
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