While there is no doubt that clinical services improve preventive measures and reduce disease prevalence among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, a new systematic study has highlighted the critical need for non‐clinical support services to facilitate access to and uptake of care.
Published in The Medical Journal of Australia, the review highlighted the importance of five non clinical support services: coordination of eye care, integrating and linking services, cultural support, health promotion, and social and emotional support.
The availability of non‐clinical support… is associated with increased attendance at eye care services, higher visual acuity examination and cataract surgery rates, broader eye health knowledge, and greater cultural responsivity
These services, typically provided by eye health coordinators, Aboriginal Health Workers, primary care clinicians, family members, carers, and community‐based liaison workers, provide support to help overcome challenges including anxiety about new diagnoses, attending appointments, interpretation of biomedical information, and cultural safety. Additionally, they assist with implementation of preventive measures.
The prevalence of vision impairment and blindness is three times as high among Indigenous Australians as among other Australians, with uncorrected refractive error, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy being the leading cause. Trachoma also leads to irreversible blindness if untreated. Ninety per cent of conditions are preventable or treatable.
The availability of non‐clinical support to help Indigenous Australians navigate what can be a long and complex eye care pathway is associated with increased attendance at eye care services, higher visual acuity examination and cataract surgery rates, broader eye health knowledge, and greater cultural responsivity.
The authors stated that greater financial investment would be required to support key providers of non‐clinical support, especially eye health coordinators, community‐based liaison officers, and family members and carers.
The review analysed peer‐reviewed titles and abstracts of 1,678 unique articles published between January 2000 and July 2018 that reported empirical data on non‐clinical support for eye health for Indigenous Australians. They included 27 full texts in the qualitative analysis component of the review.