Indigenous Eye Health Unit - Minum Barreng

The Indigenous Eye Health Unit (IEHU) undertakes world-leading research that has established an evidence base and policy framework around Indigenous eye health in Australia. The Unit is actively engaged in advocacy and provides specialist support for initiatives to ‘close the gap for vision’ including social marketing for the elimination of trachoma.

The Indigenous Eye Health Unit was established in 2008 within the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. Led by the inaugural Harold Mitchell Chair of Indigenous Eye Health, Melbourne Laureate Professor Hugh R. Taylor AC, the Unit’s goal is to ‘close the gap for vision’ through research, policy formation, advocacy and implementation. The work of the Unit has established the state of Indigenous eye health in Australia and current service availability, explored barriers and enablers to access eye health services and developed a comprehensive policy framework that is supported by the Indigenous and mainstream health sectors and government.

The Unit has been generously funded by the Harold Mitchell Foundation, the Ian Potter Foundation, the Cybec Foundation, Gandel Phillanthropy, Greg Poche AO, the BB & A Miller Foundation, Assoc Prof David Middleton, Mr Peter Anastasiou, Mr Rob Bowen, Dr Vera Bowen, Mr Noel Andressen and Dr Mark Alla Medownick. The IEHU would also like to acknowledge support from CBM Australian, the Cybec Foundation , the Aspen Foundation and "K" Line logistics.

The IEHU and University of Melbourne also receive funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.

The National Indigenous Eye Health Survey was published in 2009. The last national data came from the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program 1976-1980 when blindness rates were 10 times higher than mainstream. The 2008 survey determined the magnitude, distribution and causes of vision loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Blindness rates were 6 times more than mainstream and low vision 3 times higher. The main causes of vision loss were cataract, refractive errors, diabetic eye disease and trachoma. 94% of the vision loss is preventable or treatable but 35% of Indigenous adults have never had an eye examination.

Australia is the only developed country to still have trachoma and in many outback areas, Aboriginal communities have rates of trachoma as high as anywhere in the world.  This blinding, infectious disease disappeared from mainstream Australia 100 years ago and a concerted program to address trachoma in Australia has been implemented from 2009. The Unit developed the Trachoma Story Kit in 2010 a resource to support community health promotion and social marketing for the elimination of trachoma and provides ongoing technical support in to trachoma programs across the country.

The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision was released in 2012 and comprises 42 interlocked recommendations to improve Indigenous eye health over nine domains of specific activity. The Roadmap has been costed at $20m per year, can be implemented over five years and is estimated to be able to deliver a seven times increase in cataract surgery, five time increase in diabetic eye examinations and a 2.5 times increase in glasses.

Professor Hugh Taylor

   

Research activities within IEHU include a series of reports and publications establishing the evidence base to develop the policy recommendations to close the gap for vision:

 

  1. The National Indigenous Eye Health Survey (2009)
  2. Outreach Trachoma Services in Australian (2009)
  3. National Trachoma Surveillance and Reporting Unit (annual reporting)*
  4. Access to Eye Health Services among Indigenous Australians (2010)
  5. Accuracy of Screening Methods for Diabetic Retinopathy: A Systematic Review (2010)
  6. Trachoma, Antibiotic Treatments of trachoma: A Systematic Review (2010)
  7. Trachoma Resource Book (2010)
  8. Provision of Indigenous Eye Health Services (2010)
  9. Projected Needs for Eye Care for Indigenous Australians (2011)
  10. A Critical History of Indigenous Eye Health Policy: Towards Effective System Reform (2011)
  11. Children's Eye Health Education Program in Outback Communities*
  12. The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision (2011)
  13. The Cost of Closing the Gap for Vision (2011)
  14. The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision: Full Report (2012)
*Collaborations exist with the Centre for Eye Research Australia and the Vision Co-operative Research Centre.
 

Trachoma: A Blinding Scourge from the Bronze Age to the Twenty-first Century

Professor Taylor has written a highly acclaimed book on trachoma entitled "Trachoma: A Blinding Scourge from the Bronze Age to the Twenty-first Century."  A copy of this book, published in February 2008, can be obtained by contacting Judith Carrigan on email: judithc@unimelb.edu.au

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Acknowledgement

The Indigenous Eye Health Unit acknowledges the Wurundjeri people – the traditional owners of the land upon which the Indigenous Eye Health Unit is located, and their Elders past, present and future.
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