New Agreement Will Continue Australia’s Efforts to Eradicate Trachoma

The Australian Government will provide $16.5 million over four years to prevent and treat trachoma in Indigenous communities in NSW, NT, SA and WA.

Page last updated: 10 July 2014

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10 July 2014

The Australian Government will provide $16.5 million over four years to prevent and treat trachoma in Indigenous communities in NSW, NT, SA and WA, the Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash announced today.

Trachoma is a preventable bacterial eye infection that is a leading cause of blindness, particularly for people living in remote communities.

Minister Nash said the funding would renew agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the NSW, NT, SA and WA Governments for additional trachoma screening, treatment, management and prevention activities.

“Blindness rates among Indigenous people are more than six times higher than the rest of the population, and trachoma is a contributing factor,” Minister Nash said.

“While the prevalence of the disease has fallen in recent years, there are still a number of Indigenous communities where rates are unacceptably high, and these areas will be targeted through this new agreement.

“The funding will support these at-risk communities through screening and treatment activities. It will also support work with local primary care services, Aboriginal health care professionals and teachers to help stop the spread of trachoma through prevention programmes.

“For example, the funding will help build on the Northern Territory’s ‘Clean Faces, Strong Eyes' campaign which has successfully encouraged face washing to prevent the spread of trachoma in children.”

Minister Nash said Australia is the only developed country where trachoma is still active, and the Australian Government is a signatory to the World Health Organization (WHO) Resolution to eliminate blinding trachoma by the year 2020.

“Trachoma infections can impact on the ability of Indigenous children to receive a good education. Repeated trachoma infections can cause blindness in adults, which impacts on the ability of Indigenous adults to secure meaningful employment,” Minister Nash said.

“Eye diseases are a contributing factor to the health and welfare gaps that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, so eradicating trachoma from Australia is a top priority.”

The $16.5 million in Commonwealth funding is provided through the Department of Health’s Closing the Gap – Improving Eye and Ear Health Services for Indigenous Australians measure.

Minister's media contact: Carolyn Martin, 02 6277 7440 / 0417 966 328.

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