‘Get your eyes checked’ and ‘Look after your eyes’ are the messages Indigenous Australians are hearing from rugby great, Mark Ella AM and Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Service Delivery, the Hon. Warren Snowdon, MP. The two came together to launch I See for Culture, an education resource designed to help teach eye health and reduce avoidable blindness and vision impairment in Indigenous communities.
The Minister applauded the initiative and encouraged communities to use the resource to address the need for eye care education with their patients. Joining them, Professor Brien Holden, Chief Executive Officer of ICEE, said that Indigenous Australians are in desperate need of eye care to halt the growing numbers who are needlessly blind or vision impaired.
According to the results from the National Indigenous Eye Health Survey 1, said Holden, half of all vision loss in Indigenous adults and children is due to uncorrected refractive error, or the need for a pair of glasses to see clearly. The report said 39% of Indigenous adults cannot see normal print.
Additional the survey results highlighted that blindness rates in Indigenous adults (1.9%) are 6.2 times the rate in mainstream. “These numbers will only increase in Indigenous communities if we do not act now to provide eye care access, in a culturally appropriate manner, to all communities,” Holden added.
The I See for Culture eye health education resource kit was recently developed by ICEE in collaboration with other eye care and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations via funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (Eye Health Demonstration Grant).
The kits are designed specifically for use in rural and remote Indigenous communities, to allow health workers to explain and discuss eye health and vision conditions with their Indigenous patients. The kits include two posters for display at health centres featuring former Wallaby Captain Mark Ella. Ella, the first Indigenous person to captain a national side, knows what its like not to have good vision.
Also at the launch in the lead up to World Sight Day was Chief Executive Officer of Vision 2020 Australia, the peak body for eye health and vision care in Australia, Ms Jennifer Gersbeck. She noted that around 500,000 Australians are affected by vision impairment or blindness which is expected to double over the next 20 years unless people are pro-active about saving their sight. She urged all Australians over 40 to get their eyes checked. ICEE office in Darwin provides regular optometry clinics at Danila Dilba, outreach optometry clinics across the NT and training workshops in eye health for Aboriginal Health Workers.