The Turnbull Government has committed $2 million to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with easier access to affordable prescription glasses.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the investment would allow Vision 2020 Australia to work with state and territory governments to streamline, standardise and improve their schemes that provide subsidised glasses to First Nations people.
“There are inconsistencies in current arrangements which can make it difficult for many of our First Nations people to get affordable glasses,” Minister Hunt said.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have three times the rate of vision impairment and blindness as compared to non-Indigenous Australians.”
“This is totally unacceptable, especially when almost two-thirds of impaired eyesight can be corrected by prescription glasses.”
Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt AM said introducing a nationally consistent system to simplify and ensure better access to affordable glasses would significantly improve people’s vision and overall quality of life.
“Not only does poor vision adversely affect a person’s general wellbeing, it can be a significant barrier to education and employment, and can restrict a person’s mobility and social interaction,” said Minister Wyatt.
“The cost of prescription glasses often deters Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from visiting an optometrist to have their sight checked.”
“This can also delay detection of other serious vision-threatening conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma.”
A trial to improve the provision of prescription glasses in the Kimberley and Pilbara areas of Western Australia yielded positive outcomes, including improved patient medication compliance and greater independence.
“To help achieve equity of access to subsidised glasses, Vision 2020 will work with governments to ensure their schemes align with eye health principles developed by Optometry Australia and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation,” said Minister Wyatt.
“These principles have been supported by Aboriginal Health Forums conducted across the nation.”
Vision 2020 Australia was established in 2000 and has an experienced board including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.
The Turnbull Government’s 2018-19 Budget included an additional $3 million to extend First Nations eye health activities, on top of an existing $31.3 million commitment to eye health activities.