Keeping Indigenous health a priority

The Fred Hollows Foundation has thrown its support behind the latest Close the Gap efforts.

At least 150,000 people took part in events nationally yesterday to press for continued improvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health.

The long term aim is to achieve health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians by 2030.

The Close the Gap campaign’s focus is to keep Indigenous health a national priority in the lead up to the federal budget.

The organisation’s co-chair Mick Gooda says unprecedented funding and coordinated efforts by federal, state, and territory governments have led to an improvement in child mortality and a reduction in smoking rates.

“These improvements are a cause for optimism, but we still have a long way to go. Now is not the time to take the foot off the pedal," he said.

The latest Close the Gap report has found that there is still a life expectancy gap of 10.6 years for men and 9.5 years for women.

When it comes to eye health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have better vision than other Australian children but Indigenous adults are six times more likely than other Australians to go blind.

“Ninety-four per cent of vision loss for adults is preventable or treatable,” said Jaki Barton, manager of The Foundation's Indigenous Australia Program. “But one in three adults has never had an eye exam.”

Four conditions cause the majority of vision loss among Indigenous Australians. They include refractive error, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and trachoma.

“To close the gap on vision will require significant increases in funding and resourcing. That’s the only way to provide good quality, accessible primary, secondary, tertiary and specialist outreach eye services," said Ms Barton.

Close the Gap is a coalition of the country’s peak Indigenous bodies and non-Indigenous health and human rights organisations.
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