Real progress: the 2019 Update of the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision

  • Woman pointing to sign that says are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Origin

The eighth Annual Update on the Implementation of The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision was released in November by Indigenous Eye Health (IEH) at the University of Melbourne. The 2019 update reports further significant and positive steps forward in the efforts to achieve equity in eye health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians by the end of 2020.

The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision embraces a whole-of-system approach to reforming the structural and systemic causes of the gap in access to and delivery of eye health care, and the corresponding gap in outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

A key part of the implementation is the regional and local control of care pathways through partnerships. In areas across Australia, local Indigenous eye health partnerships have emerged to identify local barriers and develop appropriate solutions to access of eye health care and treatment. Such activities are now underway in over 55 regions across Australia, representing areas with over 90% of Australia’s Indigenous population. These partnerships are usually centred around local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, as the key local stakeholders in coordinating and providing care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Share Your Story

Local success stories offer examples of unique and innovative approaches to improve access to and delivery of care given the unique context of each region. Share Your Story, a new initiative of IEH, aims to capture some of these success stories, and share these, allowing others working in Indigenous eye health throughout Australia different ideas about how improvements can be made. Stories being shared cover areas such as ensuring eye care pathways are clear and understood, how to improve culturally safe practices for eye care services, methods to increase diabetic retinopathy screening rates at a community controlled health service, and different approaches to health promotion.

Asking the Question

Improving cultural competency and acceptability of mainstream services is a fundamental element to improve outcomes. Allowing patients to identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, without assumptions, helps to ensure appropriate services are offered, and links to other relevant services (such as local community health services). Furthermore, recording Indigenous status in patient and clinical management systems supports better data collection and understanding of outcomes for Indigenous patients. To support mainstream eye health services in ‘asking the question’ appropriately, IEH have developed a table-top resource and an information sheet, which are now being offered to eye care clinics (optometry and ophthalmology), supported by the relevant professional bodies.

Milpa’s Six Steps

IEH has been working with remote communities and partners in the NT, SA and WA to refine a series of six key high-level hygiene messages, ‘presented’ by Milpa the trachoma goanna, a mascot for healthy eyes used in health promotion activities for the past decade. These six steps are the key actions most of which can be part of a school/home hygiene routine in simple language with illustrations. The steps will help to prevent trachoma and a range of other childhood infections and work is underway to have these messages used by as many organisations and in as many settings as possible.

National Close the Gap for Vision conference

Advancing the implementation of the Roadmap, sharing local success stories, improving cultural competency of mainstream services, and implementing further measures to eliminate trachoma are all part of the larger mosaic of the work carried towards improving eye health for Indigenous Australians.

The national Close the Gap for Vision by 2020 Conference offers a unique opportunity for people working across the eye health sector to discuss these success stories, reflect on the achievements made through collaboration and partnerships, and discuss the challenges ahead. In 2020, the conference will hosted by Indigenous Eye Health together with the

Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA), and takes place in Adelaide 18-19 March 2020.

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