Report highlights Indigenous vision loss

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Older Indigenous Australians have been far more likely to suffer vision loss than their non-Indigenous peers, according to a new report.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare paper, released on Thursday, shows Indigenous Australians over 40 had three times the rate of vision loss than non-Indigenous Australians.

AIHW spokesperson Fadwa Al-Yaman said most of the blindness and vision impairment experienced by Indigenous Australians was caused by preventable conditions or in response to treatment.

However, Dr Al-Yaman said there had also been "substantial improvement" in the rate of Indigenous Australians accessing eye health services.

The report showed Indigenous Australians who had an eye health check as part of a health assessment had increased from 11 per cent in 2010-11 to 30 per cent in 2018-19.

Similarly, the rate of Indigenous Australians screened for diabetic retinopathy -- a complication of diabetes which can cause vision loss -- increased from 31 per cent to 37 per cent between 2008-09 and 2018-19.

The rate of cataract surgery has increased by 42 per cent since 2008-10, according to the report, from around 5200 procedures to 7400 per 1,000,000 in 2016-18.

The prevalence of trachoma--a highly infectious eye disease that can cause blindness if left untreated--has fallen significantly among Indigenous children aged five to nine, from 15 per cent in 2009 to 4.5 per cent in 2019.

Dr Al-Yaman said Indigenous Australians face many barriers in accessing eye health services including cultural, financial and locational difficulties.

"Ongoing monitoring will be important to better understand changes in the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their access to and use of eye health services, and to identity gaps in service delivery," Dr Al-Yaman said.