Annual eye health data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people show a decrease in active trachoma in children and an increase in the number of Indigenous Australians having eye checks.
The Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released its sixth annual report to update the eye health measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The report said the overall prevalence of active trachoma among children aged 5–9 in at-risk communities fell from 15% in 2009 to 3.3% in 2021.
Trachoma is a highly infectious disease of the eye and repeated infections can result in scarring, in-turned eyelashes (trichiasis), and blindness.
In 2021, the overall treatment coverage of active trachoma cases in at-risk communities was 71%—that is, 1,666 community members identified as having trachoma received treatment. This included children with active trachoma, along with their household contacts and other community members.
the overall prevalence of active trachoma among children aged 5–9 in at-risk communities fell from 15% in 2009 to 3.3% in 2021
Diagnosis and Screening
Between 2010–11 and 2020–21, the proportion of Indigenous Australians who had an eye health check as part of a health assessment increased from 11% to 29%, based on age-standardised rates.
And in 2019–20, 12% of Indigenous Australians (around 104,300) had an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Among Indigenous Australians who had a diabetes test, the age-standardised proportion who were screened for diabetic retinopathy rose from an estimated 27% in 2005–06 to 36% in 2019–20, the report said.
Other key data presented in the AIHW report:
An increase of 3% in age-standardised cataract surgery rates for Indigenous Australians in 2019–20, since 2012–13. However, the report also notes that age-standardised hospitalisation rates for Indigenous Australians for cataract surgery (6,884 per 1,000,000) were lower than for non-Indigenous Australians (7,413 per 1,000,000).
In 2020–21, 18,373 spectacles were dispensed to Indigenous Australians under state spectacle schemes by New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania.
Of these, Victoria (2,454 spectacles, 39 per 1,000 population) came closest to meeting the estimated number of spectacles needed (4,024)—61% of the population-based need met.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Eye health measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2022: interactive data, available at www.aihw.gov.au/reports/indigenous-australians/indigenous-eye-health-measures-2022-data/contents/summary [accessed 28 March].