More funding needed to improve eye health for Aboriginal people

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA has called on the Federal Government to act on the recommendations of a recent report and increase funding for eye health among Aboriginal people.

The PwC report found that more than 32,000 Indigenous Australians would go blind over the next decade unless the Federal Government increased funding.

AHCWA said it was deplorable that a third of Aboriginal adults had never had even a basic eye exam.

AHCWA said hundreds of Aboriginal people in WA were missing out on important treatment because there was not enough funding for services.

The CEO of the Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service in Perth said the service currently had an eye health program, which was delivered in partnership with the Lions Eye Institute (LEI), and sponsored by the Fred Hollows Foundation.

The program provided a culturally appropriate service this year to over 200 Aboriginal people in the city.

“The report found that 94% of vision loss is preventable or treatable. Without culturally safe and affordable treatment many Aboriginal people are at the risk of going blind simply because they can’t access or afford the required treatment,” said CEO Barbara Henry.

“Our eye health program gets minimal federal funding apart from one staff member, and would not exist if it wasn’t for the support of the LEI and the Fred Hollows Foundation. “Many of the clients we see can’t afford to contribute as little as $10.00 toward the cost of a pair of glasses, so we either have to try and cover the cost or the client misses out.”

Ms Henry said the eye health program was very successful and the Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service would like to expand it to the 3 other clinics it operates in the metropolitan area, however the lack of funding prevented any expansion.

The PwC report said that current government funding for 2015/16 is $40 million. It recommended the government invest an extra $227 million over 10 years, which would generate $578 million in economic savings.

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