Info for Health Professionals
Redfern Aboriginal Eye Care Clinic
ABORIGINAL EYECARE CLINIC
- Calling all eyes
New eye clinics established at Aboriginal Medical Services in NSW are meeting a great need in Aboriginal health care. Optometrists and organisers of the clinics now wish to encourage more Aboriginal people to come in for regular eye checks.
We want to get the word out that eyecare is available through Aboriginal Medical Services, says Professor Brian Layland, of the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE) who are working in Partnership with the Services.
Many Aboriginal people are losing their vision because of preventable or treatable causes. Aboriginal people have higher rates of blindness and visual impairment, and attend eyecare practitioners in far lower numbers, than other members of the Australian population.
The NSW Eye Clinics are designed to combat this problem, by providing eye care and vision correction, including spectacles and other optical aids, within Aboriginal community controlled health services.™
At the Eye Clinic in Redfern a Community Optometrist attends the clinic four days per week through the support of ICEE and the Department of Community Services, and a registrar from the Department of Ophthalmology at Prince of Wales Hospital attends for one session each week.
The Redfern clinic has seen 1300 patients since its inception in July 2000. The clinic has also provided 800 spectacles free of charge to its client group. Vision screening has been conducted at two Aboriginal pre-schools, and the Community Optometrist has started a program of visits to areas in NSW isolated from Aboriginal Medical Services.
One of the particular targets of the Eye Clinics is care for diabetics. Diabetes and associated eye disease has a high prevalence amongst the Aboriginal population. People with diabetes are at risk of blindness due to diabetic retinopathy, but regular eye checks and treatment can prevent vision loss.
In addition to the Redfern Clinic, ICEE has helped to equip Eye Clinics at Aboriginal community controlled health services in Walgett, Moree, Wellington, Bega, Nowra, Wagga Wagga, and Kempsey, and negotiations have commenced with a view to the establishment of an Eye Clinic at Tharawal. ICEE is also training the seven Regional Eye Health Coordinators who are stationed at locations where Eye Clinics are established.
All the Eye Clinics are staffed by visiting optometrists, coordinated by ICEE. It is expected that between 2000 and 2400 patients annually will receive eyecare through the ICEE Clinics.
The establishment of the Eye Clinics is a collaborative effort involving ICEE; Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW; University of New South Wales; Department of Ophthalmology, Prince of Wales Hospital; VisionCare NSW; Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care - Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, NSW Branch; Department of Community Services; and NSW Health, Aboriginal Health Branch.
'With continued support the Clinics can continue to meet the eyecare needs of Aboriginal people, and we hope that more and more Aboriginal people will use the services provided, says Professor Layland.