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National Identities Plead for Indigenous Australians to ‘Get your Eyes Checked’ PDF
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Australian News
Friday, 16 October 2009

‘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.

Ophthalmologists reject approach on “complex” cataract procedures PDF
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Australian News
Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Ophthalmologists have rejected the Federal Government’s latest announcement of a new Medicare rebate for “complex” cataract procedures, saying that it fails 95 per cent of Australians needing this vital sight-restoring surgery. And they have stressed that the inference that they agreed with the Government introducing a new, so called “complex” Medicare item for cataract surgery is misleading.

Dr Iain Dunlop, President of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, said that all cataract surgery is complex, regardless of the time it takes to perform. He said the statements attributed to the Health Minister were misleading in a number of aspects.

Give the Gift of Sight through the OneSight Foundation PDF
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Australian News
Friday, 09 October 2009
OneSight launched an appeal to collect 50,000 pairs of second hand glasses to help disadvantaged communities around the world. OneSight Foundation, (a non-for-profit charity,) is calling on Australians to dig out their old pairs of glasses and recycle them through OPSM stores nationwide from 28th September - 8th November.

By recycling pre-loved glasses at OPSM during the appeal, Australians can make a huge difference to the 250 million individuals worldwide who cannot see simply because they cannot access or cannot afford basic eye care.

Donated eyewear is cleaned, repaired and classified by prescription in stores, before being catalogued in a global computer system. The glasses are then hand-delivered to disadvantaged communities during OneSight clinics in countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, India, Mexico and South Africa.

Each clinic runs for two weeks, where a team of volunteer optometrists, optical dispensers and other staff help approximately 20,000 to 25,000 people. Around 50,000 pairs of recycled glasses are required for each clinic to ensure there are enough glasses to find the right prescription for everyone.

Gina De George, OneSight Foundation Manager Asia Pacific, comments: "There are millions of people around the globe living with impaired vision, which we know causes a range of health and social issues. By supporting OneSight's appeal, Australians can make a positive difference to the lives of people in need."

In addition to these overseas missions, OneSight Foundation also runs Australian programs that benefit disadvantaged Australians with free eye exams and free new eyewear.

Since the Foundation was established 20 years ago, OneSight has helped over 7 million people. To continue to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged people, OneSight Foundation needs up to 2 million pairs of recycled prescription glasses each year to meet the demand of overseas clinics.

Eye surgeons threaten ban over Medicare cuts PDF
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Australian News
Tuesday, 06 October 2009

Fred Hollows's dream of performing cataract surgery in remote areas of the state is in doubt after more than 50 eye surgeons threatened to stop operating on public patients in protest against cuts to Medicare rebates.

The outback eye team, run by the Prince of Wales Hospital and inspired by Hollows, has been travelling to western NSW for 14 years to treat patients with eye problems, but fears it might have to stop offering cataract surgery after a decision by the Federal Government to halve the Medicare rebate.

The threatened ban by ophthalmologists, which will affect thousands of people, most of them elderly, is expected to cause a massive blow-out in hospital waiting lists, already about two years in some country areas.

The ban has been called after the Federal Government launched an advertising campaign this week, accusing ophthalmologists of charging too much for cataract surgery, and defending its decision to cut the rebate from $623.70 to $311.85 from November 1.

Improvements in technology had made the operation quicker, so it could done more cheaply, and ophthalmologists were ''blurring the facts to protect their Medicare-subsidised incomes'', the Government said in a statement.

But eye surgeons are furious, saying they are being expected to perform life-changing surgery for the price of a pair of spectacles.

The following is an extract from the ALP website:

"This year over 123,000 cataract procedures will be funded by the Australian Government - more than ever before.

Improvements in technology have made this life-improving surgery quicker so it can now be delivered for a much lower price.

This is good news and allows precious funding to be re-directed into other areas, giving a boost to our health and hospital system now and in the future.

Not surprisingly, a campaign has been mounted by the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists to blur the facts and protect their Medicare subsidised incomes.

We can not afford a health system built around the financial self interests of a few specialists. The Government will continue to make decisions based on the needs of the entire community."

Indigenous blindness six times higher than mainstream Australia PDF
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Australian News
Friday, 02 October 2009
Sixty per cent of the population in Australia's remote communities are still affected by the eye disease Trachoma, a century after it was eradicated in most developing countries. Blindness rates in Indigenous adults are six times the rates in the rest of Australia. The figures come from the first comprehensive survey of Indigenous eye health in three decades.

The Governor-General Quentin Bryce launched the survey in Melbourne this week. The co-author of the survey says it's a national disgrace, because more than 94 per cent of vision loss associated with eye diseases is preventable or treatable.
Successful eye surgery week held in Central Australia PDF
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Australian News
Thursday, 01 October 2009

A week of intensive eye surgery, coordinated by The Fred Hollows Foundation, had been up and running for a week during the month of September with as many as 60 operations performed.

People from towns and communities such as Docker River, Tennant Creek, Elliot and Mutitjulu received vital eye operations at Alice Springs Hospital as part of The Central Australian Integrated Eye Health Program.

The surgical team was being led by Alice Springs ophthalmologist Dr Tim Henderson and included Dr Cliff Fairley, the husband of Susie O'Neill, an Ambassador for The Fred Hollows Foundation. This was the eighth intensive eye surgery week in Central Australia since 2007. In 2008, 470 eye surgeries were carried out in Alice Springs - over 170 during intensive eye surgery weeks.

These weeks are a partnership between The Australian Government, The Northern Territory Government, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, The Eye Foundation and The Fred Hollows Foundation.

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