The appalling rates of eye disease among Aboriginals in the Kimberley will be targeted by a new health unit that will co-ordinate specialist treatment.
The WA-first Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Research Unit is part of the Lions Eye Institute and will be directed by ophthalmologist Angus Turner, who is returning to WA after years of research into outreach eye services across Australia.
Associate Professor Turner said that the unit aimed to improve services which until now had lacked co-ordination and been delivered by too few specialists.
In the past, he said, eight ophthalmologists would visit for one week a year - but follow up was difficult and there was little collaboration with optometrists, meaning some patients needing help slipped through the cracks.
Many remote areas in WA suffered the double-edged sword of having the highest prevalence of eye disease in Australia but up to 19 times less access to ophthalmology services than that available in urban areas, he said.
Nationally, only 20 per cent of indigenous adults with diabetes received an eye examination in the past year and 13 per cent of those with diabetes suffered vision loss.
- EYE HEALTH *
HEALTH + MEDICINE