Indigenous Australians are accessing eye health services in greater numbers, with nearly one in three using eye health services, and one in seven having an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, according to a new report.
The Welfare Indigenous eye health measures 2020 report, produced by the Australian Institute of Health, assessed changes in eye health practices among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the past 10 years, largely facilitated through the Visiting Optometrists Scheme*.
During this time, the number of Indigenous Australians who had an eye health check as part of a health assessment increased from 11% to 30%, while 13% of Indigenous Australians (around 100,700 individuals in 2018-2019) had an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The incidence of trachoma among children aged five to nine in at-risk communities fell from 15% in 2009 to 4.8% in 2012 and has remained on this level, despite treatment coverage improving to 89% in 2019. The number of diabetic retinopathy screening exams also rose from about 31% in 2008/9 to 37% in 2019.
Despite the positive trends, authors warned that barriers to accessing eye health services for this group remain and research consistently shows Indigenous Australians use eye health services less than non-Indigenous Australians, leading to continued higher rates of vision loss.