SYDNEY, March 17 (Xinhua) -- A group of Melbourne University researchers is making great progress in its goal to eradicate all preventable eye diseases among indigenous Australians by 2020.
The small team at the university's Indigenous Eye Health (IEH) group has for the past 10 years been working to improve the poor state of eye care among Indigenous communities and, since 2010, have reduced by 50 percent the rates of avoidable blindness.
Vision loss and full blindness are three times more prevalent among indigenous Australians than the rest of the population, even though in 94 percent of those cases, the condition is preventable with regular eye checks, basic washing facilities or simply being prescribed spectacles.
In many cases, sufferers don't have access to these services, a story of neglect and poor policy-coordination that IEH group leader Professor Hugh Taylor has found stunning.
"It isn't rocket science, it isn't a new technique or treatment," Taylor said on Friday at the university's "Close the Gap for Vision by 2020 National Conference".
"It's simply about making sure that people are getting the care they need.
"What was needed was for someone to show governments the data, show them the solution and give them a target and that is where the university and researches have come in."
One of the group's most important initiatives has been an online calculator, which gives health providers and networks the exact level of eye care they need to be delivering, based on the size of their local communities.
An early survey report in 2008 found that cataracts and trachoma were the leading diseases that affected indigenous Australians, while also revealing that only 20 percent of this population wore glasses for distance.
The survey revealed the shocking finding that blindness caused by cataracts was 12 times higher among indigenous Australians, at a time when many poorer countries than Australia have eliminated trachoma disease.
But targeted actions since the gradual implementation in 2012 of the Roadmap means that improvements are finally being seen, with trachoma rates among children aged between 5-9 falling 21 percent in communities across the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.
"To tackle most of the big health problems, we don't need a new breakthrough or discovery," Taylor said. "What we need to do is simply better apply the knowledge that we already have."