Eye health policy and programmes

Australian Government eye health policies and funded programmes.

Page last updated: 23 March 2016

Page last reviewed: March2016

Eye health in Australia

Eye health conditions are very common in Australia, and may be present from birth, as a result of illness or injury, or developed over time. Five common eye health conditions affecting Australians are cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and uncorrected refractive error. Living with a vision disorder may cause disadvantage due to delayed childhood learning, reduced participation in education and employment, and social isolation.

Global and national eye health policies for eye health and the prevention of vision impairment and blindness

World Health Organization Universal Eye Health - A Global Action Plan 2014 - 2019

In May 2003 the 56th World Health Assembly passed Resolution WHA56.26 on the elimination of avoidable blindness. The resolution urged all member states to develop a national Vision 2020 plan in collaboration with non-government organisations and the private sector to prevent avoidable blindness.

In response, the National Framework for Action to Promote Eye Health and Prevent Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss was developed by the Australian Government Department of Health and the Victorian Department of Human Services in conjunction with all states and territories and in consultation with the non-government sector.

The National Framework was endorsed by the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference in November 2005. In accordance with the World Health Assembly resolution, its focus is on the elimination of avoidable blindness and vision loss in Australia.

National Framework for action to promote eye health and prevent avoidable blindness and vision loss (2005)

The National Framework for Action to Promote Eye Health and Prevent Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss (2005) sets out a strategic national framework for action for the promotion of eye health and the prevention of avoidable blindness. Five key action areas are outlined that have the potential to lead to the prevention of avoidable blindness and low vision:
  • Reducing the risk of eye disease and injury;
  • Increasing early detection;
  • Improving access to eye health care services;
  • Improving the systems and quality of care; and
  • Improving the underlying evidence base.
The National Framework requires all jurisdictions to report every three years to Health Ministers on progress against these action areas. Links to progress reports to date:

The Australian Government’s Health Implementation Plan under the National Framework for Action to Promote Eye Health and Prevent Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss (2014)

This Implementation Plan focusses on targeted action by the Australian Government on eye health and avoidable vision loss within the health portfolio for the period 2014-2016. The plan will also inform discussions with states and territories on initiatives relating to the framework and Australia's international eye health obligations under the Global Action Plan.

Eye Health Programmes

Trachoma - The National Trachoma Surveillance and Reporting Unit (NTSRU) was established in November 2006 to improve the quality and consistency of data collection and reporting of active trachoma in Australia.
Visiting Optometrists Scheme - The Visiting Optometrists Scheme (VOS) supports optometrists to deliver outreach optometric services to remote and very remote locations, and rural communities with an identified need for optometric services.
The Rural Health Outreach Fund (RHOF) - The RHOF consolidates activities of five outreach programmes aimed at supporting people living in regional, rural and remote locations to access a wide range of health care services. There are four priorities under the RHOF: eye health; maternity and paediatric health; mental health; and support for chronic disease management. The five programmes consolidated under the RHOF are:
    - The Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance Program (MSOAP);
    - MSOAP – Ophthalmology expansion;
    - MSOAP – Maternity services expansion;
    - Rural Women’s GP Service Program; and
    - National Rural and Remote Health – Kimberley Paediatric Outreach Program.

A list of eye health publications is available on this website.

Information on many eye conditions can be obtained through Healthdirect, including links to resources that explain what eye diseases are, their causes, management, support services and statistics.