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Māori and Pasifika Eye Health

RANZCO is committed to working towards eliminating eye health inequalities across Australia and New Zealand.

In New Zealand there are disparities in eye health outcomes between Māori and Pasifika peoples and other ethnic groups in terms of uncorrected refractive error, cataract and other lens disorders, diabetic retinopathy and keratoconus. The underlying causes are likely to be due to higher rates of genetic and environmental risk factors alongside a lower rate of access to health services.

Māori are significantly less likely to wear corrective lenses than non-Māori (38.7% compared with 51.9% after adjusting for age) It they do wear corrective lenses Māori are significantly more likely than non-Māori to find it difficult to see newspaper print well enough to read it and to find it difficult to see someone’s face clearly across a room (3.9% compared to 2.8% after adjusting for age).

Cataracts and other lens disorders are 1.5-2 times as prevalent in Māori compared to non-Māori up to the age of 84.

Māori and Pasifika people are overrepresented in populations with diabetic eye disease. There is also some evidence that Māori access the diabetic retinal screening service at a lower rate than other ethnic groups.

Māori and Pasifika people appear to have a higher than average prevalence of keratoconus.

RANZCO works to address eye health inequalities through training an ophthalmology workforce that is culturally competent and provides health services that are culturally safe for both patients and doctors. This includes working to increase the numbers of Māori and Pasifika ophthalmologists.

The RANZCO Strategic Plan 2017-20 commits to developing a plan to deal with Indigenous/Māori/Pacific Islander eye health and access issues and to increase the diversity (including Indigenous/Māori/Pacific Islander) of ophthalmologists in Australia and New Zealand. As part of achieving this, we have established a Māori and Pasifika Health Committee, with a goal of developing a strategy and action plan to improve Māori and Pasifika eye health outcomes.

In addition, RANZCO has launched up to four scholarships of AUD$2000 annually for medical students or junior doctors of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Māori or Pacific Island descent who wish to pursue a career in ophthalmology.

RANZCO has also established a Service to Australian Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander, New Zealand Māori and Pacific Islander Peoples Award. This award is given in recognition of outstanding service to the College, ophthalmology or community in areas of indigenous eye care, in either Australia or New Zealand or in recognition of mentoring indigenous doctors or medical students.

Finally, to encourage more Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Māori or Pacific Island doctors into a career in ophthalmology, RANZCO has adopted a centralised recruitment process that will automatically allocate an interview to qualified applicants who identify as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Māori or Pacific Islander.

Last updated: July 8, 2019

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