Watching out for better eye health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Department of Health, via Stream 2 funding of the Rural Health Continuing Education (RHCE2) program, supported a Forum in Melbourne recently on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health coordination. It was run by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, in partnership with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and Vision 2020 Australia. RHCE2 funding enabled 27 Regional Eye Health Coordinators and Aboriginal Eye Health Workers from across Australia to attend the Forum on 23 June 2014. Collectively, these personnel coordinate or facilitate eye care services to approximately 220 communities, including 49 remote and 115 very remote locations.

The Forum was for personnel involved in coordination and facilitation of eye care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. It gave representatives from Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, government health departments, not-for-profit organisations, research organisations, universities, and governmental Indigenous health policy sectors the opportunity to share case stories representing a range of models for eye care service delivery in the diverse contexts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health across the country. A total of 53 people participated in the Forum, run as a side-event of the NACCHO Healthy Futures Summit 2014.

Representatives from the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector set the scene on the current eye health programs happening across Australia. Optometry Australia talked about ‘Improving access to prescription lenses for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’ which included principles for subsidised spectacle schemes and the importance to align schemes for national consistency to enable more equitable access. Vision2020 Australia described some of their policy and advocacy work relating to eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the Lowitja Institute discussed some of their research programs and priorities, which emphasises translating research evidence into practice, and the Indigenous Eye Health Unit, University of Melbourne conducted a hands-on session around mapping population for eye care needs.

In the two days prior to the forum, 27 eye health coordinators (or equivalent personnel) from across Australia participated in an education program comprising one of the three units of the newly endorsed 'Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Coordinator Skill Set' (HLTSS00036) - ‘Provide information and strategies in eye health (HLTAHW030). This education program was conducted by the Brien Holden Vision Institute in partnership with the Aboriginal Health College (AHC) of NSW, with many of the participants enrolling with AHC to complete this skill set over the next 12 months. This training program was developed based on a comprehensive training needs analysis for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health coordinators, conducted as part of the Vision CRC project, ‘models of vision care delivery in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities’.

An interesting overview of the Forum is presented on the Vision 2020 Australia blog-page, written by one of the Forum participants:

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