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Eye Health and Chronic Disease Specialist Support Program

The Eye Health and Chronic Disease Specialist Support Program (EH&CDSSP) aims to provide, facilitate or assist with ongoing culturally appropriate chronic disease specialist support, such as optometrists and ophthalmologists, to rural and remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia. The EH&CDSSP coordinates and supports visiting eye specialists to most regional Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs), with a particular focus on the twice yearly visits to remote communities, where access to specialist medical services is infrequent and severely under resourced. There are currently five optometrists and six ophthalmologists in the program.

For SA’s remote Aboriginal communities including Yalata, Oak Valley, and several communities within the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, the EH&CDSSP provides high level support and coordinated service delivery at the ground level, including but not limited to; scheduling eye clinic dates, supporting and accompanying visiting eye specialists, transporting and managing specialised equipment, facilitating the eye clinics on the day, issuing of corrective eyewear, assisting with follow-ups, and monitoring the patient referral pathway from primary to tertiary level eye health care.

For rural locations including Port Augusta, Whyalla, Murray Bridge, Raukkan and Meningie, the EH&CDSSP is more about advocacy, guidance and supporting the Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHSs) toward becoming self-sufficient and self-driving a coordinated eye health service to their clients.

One universal aim of the program is to promote the importance of eye health and heighten awareness around the strong yet under-acknowledged correlation between eye health and chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The presence and extent of these diseases is often only first detected in clients as a result of undergoing a routine eye examination. Therefore, the eye health visiting team aims to screen as many Aboriginal chronic disease clients as possible during each community visit, together with anyone else in the community who presents for an eye check.

The EH&CDSSP strongly supports the Insight Indigenous Health incentive program for Adelaide University medical students, in allowing interested students to accompany the eye team on community visits when permissible. Students gain valuable learning and experience by observing and assisting where possible during the clinic consultations, and this initiative has proven very successful with excellent feedback on all counts.

The EH&CDSSP also maintains healthy partnerships with relevant external organisations such as The Sight For All Foundation, and The Royal Society For The Blind, where it works collaboratively in designing, launching and implementing new resources, redeveloping or improving on existing ones proven successful in the past, or fundraising for badly needed equipment and services.

To view some of the health awareness videos created through Sight For All, click here.

Two of these videos are listed below:

  • “Big City Trip” – a short documentary film capturing the patient journey for three members of the remote western desert community of Tjuntjuntjara, all of whom travelled to Adelaide for cataract surgery
  • ”Sid’s Bad Sugar” – a short animated diabetic eye disease awareness video

For more information, please email Chris Rektsinis or phone 08 8273 7200.


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