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Fred Hollows Foundation continues the work of Professor Fred Hollows, who had a fierce determination to improve the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
For decades, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Lander people have experienced lower health outcomes than Non-Indigenous Australians. Today, there’s still a ten-year gap in life expectancy and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples do not experience equity in health care. Their eye health is no exception, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples being 3 times more likely to go blind than other Australians and typically wait 40% longer for cataract surgery.
Currently there is a critical shortage of eye health workers in remote and regional Australia, and many doctors lack the knowledge, experience and skills to deliver culturally responsive care. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to this lack of staff, lowered attrition and a lack of resources available.
This project supports increased investment in and access to culturally appropriate eye care services to remote and underserved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. More specifically, to provide training and support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health staff, to educate Non- Indigenous Australians on the importance of culturally responsive care and deliver the best services possible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
For example, explaining complex procedures to patients in language that is easy to understand, to ensure patients are comfortable with the procedure they might be going through. For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, English may not be their first language, and it’s important that patients understand how the care they are receiving will help them.
When the patients feel safe, and confident in the services they are receiving they are more likely to come back or to refer the service to their friends or family, and there is better access to high levels of service and cultural care.
The project supports 18 clinical and coordination roles across Australia, including to ensure eye health services can be delivered in a culturally safe and timely way for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. They work with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services as Aboriginal organisations are best placed to provide eye care appropriate to local people.
Fred Hollows has four areas in their work in Australia:
1. Eliminate trachoma from Australia.
2. Ensure effective cataract and diabetic retinopathy treatment is accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
3. Ensure effective refractive error prevention and treatment is accessible to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for conditions such as Diabetic Retinopathy.
4. Build the eye health workforce of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to deliver culturally responsive care.