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The Importance of National Close the Gap Day

Thursday 17 March 2016 marked the 10th anniversary of the Close the Gap campaign – an initiative that aims to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians by 2030.

RANZCO has always supported the Close the Gap campaign, and this year was no different. On National Close the Gap Day, RANZCO staff members showed their commitment to reconciliation and achieving equity in health outcomes by gathering together for an informative lunch as well as signing the Close the Gap organizational pledge.

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Although Australians enjoy one of the highest life expectancies of any country in the world, RANZCO Manager for E-Learning and Indigenous, Adam Kiernan, explained that the same cannot be said for Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live 10–17 years less than other Australians and experience higher rates of preventable illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. In addition, Babies born to Aboriginal mothers die at more than twice the rate of other Australian babies.

WHAT ABOUT EYE HEALTH?

Vision loss causes 11% of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It is behind cardiovascular and diabetes, equal with trauma but ahead of alcoholism and stroke. The 2008 National Indigenous Eye Health Survey found blindness rates in Indigenous adults to be 6 times the rate in mainstream. While 94% of vision loss is caused by preventable or treatable conditions such as cataract, refractive error, optic atrophy and diabetic retinopathy, 35% of Indigenous adults have never had an eye exam.

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WHY THE DIFFERENCES?
There are a number of factors contributing to the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians but lack of access to health services, particularly for remote, Aboriginal communities as well as lack of cultural sensitivity and understanding among health professionals are some of the main reasons.

RANZCO’S COMMITMENT TO CLOSING THE GAP
RANZCO Fellows have been involved in striving to improve the eye health of Indigenous Australians over many decades in rural, urban and more remote practices and clinics. RANZCO has also participated in initiatives to survey the eye health of Indigenous Australians. Recently a cultural awareness booklet has been produced which aims to educate Fellows on issues surrounding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as it relates to ophthalmology. In addition to this, a flyer has been produced which outlines some of the historical achievements of Fellows as well as outlining advocacy and training opportunities. RANZCO’s Indigenous Committee is also actively involved in advocacy and regular service provision aimed at delivering the highest possible standards of eye care to Indigenous communities.
See our flyer for more information.

1. Close the Gap
2. The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision
3. Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2015

Last updated: November 29, 2018

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