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The World Health Organization’s goal was to eliminate trachoma globally by 2020. We have made steady progress towards this goal in Australia, with trachoma rates in at-risk communities falling by 17% in the last six years.
However, some areas of Australia have seen an increase in the number of hyper-endemic communities – 24 communities with hyper-endemic trachoma were reported in 2019 compared to 13 in 2008. In these 24 hyper-endemic communities, 20% of children have trachoma and all live within the Tri-State Region in Central Australia, covering parts of the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and South Australia.
Over the last two years, COVID-19 has delayed and restricted access into communities that need help to fight this disease and reduce the spread. In 2022, The Fred Hollows Foundation will be able to return into these communities and work with our partners to deliver trachoma treatment and educate about prevention.
This project aims to build and sustain the workforce of people delivering eye health care in remote and regional areas of Australia.
Positions such as that of Cathy, an eye health nurse employed the foundation’s partner, the Nganampa Health Council. This position delivers eye health care to seven major communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, undertakes trachoma screening in schools and supports health promotion activities to encourage face washing and hygiene practices.
At Nganampa Health Council, Cathy has prompted the development of a telehealth service during the COVID-19 pandemic. In conjunction with a South Australia-based optometrist, she is now using telehealth to provide prescription glasses for patients and is working to develop and define a telehealth consulting model. During 2021, Cathy continued to support the provision of eye health services while also supporting the Nganampa Health Council and other Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in Alice Springs with the COVID-19 vaccination roll out. Cathy also conducted a high number of trachoma screenings between January and June 2020, despite COVID-19, and managed an acute outbreak of conjunctivitis affecting hundreds of children and many adults.
In 2022, and into the future, the foundation is committed to continuing to support Cathy and to educate community members of the importance of clean faces and healthy eyes with updates in the appropriate languages, advocating to the government to keep community housing sanitary with clean drinking water and washing facilities.
What’s Covered in Project Cost
Your support will contribute to supporting the salary of an eye health nurse in Central Australia to support the screening, outreach and telehealth consulting that Cathy provides to her region. This position also provides integral education to children in the area on the importance of clean faces and healthy eyes to prevent the spread of trachoma.
Partners & Community Involvement
The Fred Hollows Foundation works in partnership with like-minded organisations and health providers to ensure the largest possible reach and impact of our sight restoring work. For example, Cathy, is employed through the Nganampa Health Council but her position is supported by The Fred Hollows Foundation and our donors.
How does the project fits into a larger strategy
When Fred Hollows first started this work in Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were 10 times more likely to go blind than other Australians. Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely to suffer blindness or vision loss; 94% of this blindness is treatable or preventable.
We have made huge progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health.
Our work in Australia has four main focus areas: