First Australians living in regional areas and on country in Queensland have greater access to blindness prevention services, thanks to an $860,000 investment from the Australian Government to keep the Indigenous Diabetes Eyes and Screening (IDEAS) Van on the road.
The IDEAS Van is a fully equipped, mobile specialist treatment clinic offering optometry and ophthalmology to complement expanded Government-funded eye health outreach services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Eye degeneration from diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness among First Australians, with the latest data revealing 11 percent of adults have diabetes, three times the rate for other Australians.
The good news is that diabetic retinopathy it can be treated if diagnosed early, through injections and surgery. Earlier detection means more effective treatment and better results.
It is critical to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have their eyes checked as it is estimated a third of our First Australians who have diabetes have not had eye examinations for at least a year.
Our Government has acted on this by introducing a new Medicare Benefits Schedule item for diabetic retinopathy screening that provides annual retinal examinations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes.
The IDEAS van will make it easier for First Australians in Queensland to have their annual retinal check-ups and necessary treatments.
The $860,000 investment is in addition to the $5.7 million our Government has allocated over two years, from 2017–18, to provide up to 160 retinal cameras to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, including 105 in Queensland.
The rollout of retinal cameras and training began in August 2017, allowing health services to detect vision loss associated with diabetes at an earlier stage.
This multimillion-dollar investment in retinal health, including funding for the IDEAS Van, reflects our Government’s absolute commitment to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Closing the Gap in health equality.
First Nations people aged over 40 are six to 10 times more likely to suffer blindness than other Australians, yet 94 per cent of this vision loss is preventable or treatable.
Since the IDEAS Van began its work in 2013, it has travelled more than 233,000 kilometres across Queensland and treated 3,583 patients in its mobile clinic. Almost 6,000 predominantly diabetes patients have also been screened using retinal cameras in local communities.
Source: Australian Government