- 17 October 2017
- Duration: 4:39
MITCHELL: In 2008 a national survey was conducted to explore the state of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander eye health. There was some key findings in that survey and it included; that Aboriginal children are born with far fewer vision problems than their mainstream counterparts.. that by the time an Aboriginal person is forty years of age or greater, they will suffer six times more blindness and three times more low vision than mainstream Australians. An outstanding finding from the survey was that over one third of Aboriginal people have never had their eyes examined.
GENEVIEVE: Many optometrists in Victoria are part of a network of practitioners who participate in the Victorian Eye Care Service. Through that network, many of those practitioners also participate in the Victorian Aboriginal Spectacle Subsidy Scheme. Through the College of Optometry we administer that scheme on behalf of the state government and we monitor that regularly on a monthly basis. We have a look at the number of glasses that are provided though that scheme across Grampians region and we can narrow it down to each town, and we're able to.., we've started being able to actually map that against community need using population projections that the Indigenous eye health group at Melbourne University have produced.
FAYE: So part of the project involved recognising that optometrists in the area didn't know much about Aboriginal health, the issues that we have with diabetes and with vision loss. So we decided to have a seminar and invited local optometrists and people involved in eye health, say from the hospital.. to come into that and we provided a cultural education session.
GENEVIEVE: There's a particular focus on ensuring everyone with diabetes has their eyes checked at least once a year, so we monitor that closely.. how many people with diabetes have had their eyes checked at each visit or across a three or six month period. And we can then work with the co-ops to link it with their information.. how many clients in their database who have diabetes who've had their eyes checked regularly. And how many have been seeing local optometrists.. and try to link all that together to improve the diabetic eye disease screening rate in the region.
FAYE: Having the visiting optometrists come here has been a real bonus for us.. being able to discuss issues with the College of Optometrists and troubleshoot and make the service better every time. So it's that ongoing conversation that we have with them that's just been the key.
MITCHELL: It was identified from community consultation that having regional groups established, so that you have a collaborative network if you like, of the local players, looking at data that might be available, and then working out plans that could be implemented collectively, is a good underpinning to some of the national policy levers that might be put in place.
MITCHELL: So on the three measures that cause vision loss and blindness, knowing nationally applied to the Grampians regions we have.. we're able to say that things have significantly improved.. and the beneficiary, the outcome is the Aboriginal community who have higher quality services, more available services and are more aware of the availability and the importance of those services.
MAUREEN: Well BADAC (Ballarat and Districts Aboriginal Cooperative) has helped me get in touch with a lot of services that I didn't even know existed. It's finding out what's in the community, what you can use, what's of value to you and how you can access a lot of these things. Knowledge is powerful!
The Grampians eye-health initiative is an example of how a collaborative approach to addressing local community needs can be achieved without the need to conduct a formal evaluation. Instead, the strategic use of data, program monitoring and community feedback provides a systematic approach to identifying local community needs and providing culturally appropriate responses.
Reviewed 17 October 2017