Darwin, Australia, 17 July 2013: The Aboriginal Vision Program continues to expand and contribute towards reducing the disparities in eye health, vision impairment and avoidable blindness currently experienced at significantly higher rates by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The role of the Health Care Worker is important for delivering and meeting the health care needs of Aboriginal communities across Australia, while helping to bridge the healthcare delivery gap.
Brien Holden Vision Institute is working towards strengthening the skills of Aboriginal eye health workers and health care workers established within Aboriginal medical services, based on a new educational course in eye care skills and practices. Part of the training was delivered in December 2012 across 19 locations in New South Wales (NSW) and the Northern Territory (NT) and is designed to aid eye health workers in making accurate vision assessments and refer to appropriate eye care practitioners, while ensuring comprehensive and culturally appropriate eye care services are delivered for Aboriginal communities.
Salma Ismail and Anna Morse from the Brien Holden Vision Institute have been working closely with the Aboriginal Health College in NSW to define and outline the Eye Care Skills Set package. The educational course was developed in conjunction with the Aboriginal Health College and Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council (CSHISC). The Eye Care Skill Set has recently been approved for national endorsement and will be available for eye health workers 1 July 2013.
To further support eye care in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHO), the Institute has also developed a training package for primary health care staff called the Role of the Primary Health Worker in Eye Care. The education programs build local capacity for primary eye care, early detection and referral pathways through training for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, nurses, general practitioners and other primary health care staff. The eye care course has been designed to provide background reasoning and evidence to support the need for routine vision checks along with concise guidelines for health care workers to conduct vision screenings, as part of the Adult and Child Health Checks and Chronic Disease Management Plan.
“The course is quite valuable for Aboriginal community controlled settings,” said a general practitioner from Yarralin community in Katherine West, NT. Evaluations collated indicated the program was beneficial for improving the confidence of health care workers conducting routine eye and vision checks.
Aboriginal Health Worker, Alison Andrews, from Sunrise Health in the NT said, “I found this session to be very informative and inspired me to learn more about eye health. I would like to see this training provided to our staff on a regular basis.”