AIHW releases 2020 ‘Indigenous eye health measures’ report

Indigenous eye health measures 2020 report cover

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released the ‘Indigenous eye health measures 2020’ report today via a virtual launch event.

The report was launched by The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, Mr Barry Sandison, CEO of AIHW, Associate Professor Kris Rallah-Baker, Ophthalmologist and Chair of the Vision 2020 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee and Professor Hugh Taylor AC, Harold Mitchell Professor of Indigenous Eye Health and Director of the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at The University of Melbourne.

This is the fourth annual report on the Indigenous eye health measures. These measures were developed to provide an evidence base to monitor changes in eye health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over time, and their use of eye health services. The report provides an evidence base for monitoring changes in Indigenous eye health over time, access to and use of eye health services, and for identifying gaps in service delivery.

Read the full report on the AIHW website, here.

Report summary

  • Between 2010–11 and 2018–19, the proportion of Indigenous Australians who had an eye health check as part of a health assessment increased from 11% to 30% (based on age-standardised rates).
  • In 2018–19, 13% of Indigenous Australians (around 100,700) had an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
  • In 2016–18, the age-standardised cataract surgery rate for Indigenous Australians was about 7,400 hospitalisations per 1,000,000 population—an increase of 42% since 2008–10.
  • In 2018–19, 16,780 spectacles (26 per 1,000 population) were dispensed to Indigenous Australians under state spectacle schemes by New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania (the states and territories able to provide data). Of these, Victoria (2,589 spectacles, 42 per 1,000 population) came closest to meeting the estimated number of spectacles needed—66% of the population-based need met.
  • Trachoma is a highly infectious disease of the eye which—if left untreated—can result in scarring, in-turned eyelashes (trichiasis) and blindness.
  • The estimated prevalence of active trachoma among children aged 5–9 in at-risk communities fell from 15% in 2009 to 4.8% in 2012 and has since plateaued at around this level (4.5% in 2019).
  • In 2019, the overall treatment coverage of active trachoma cases in at-risk communities was 89%—that is, 4,711 of 5,294 community members identified as requiring treatment received antibiotics. This included children with active trachoma, along with their household contacts and other community members.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes which can result in vision loss if not detected and treated early. Among Indigenous Australians who had a diabetes test, the age-standardised proportion who were screened for diabetic retinopathy rose from an estimated 31% in 2008–09 to 37% in 2018–19.
  • The number of services provided under the Visiting Optometrists Scheme—which provides specialist eye health services to Indigenous Australians in mainly regional and remote areas—have fluctuated, but overall services more than tripled between 2010–11 (around 8, 300 occasions of service) and 2018–19 (around 25,850).

Read the full report on the AIHW website, here.