In July 2004 the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference agreed on the need to develop a National Eye Health Plan for Australia to promote eye health and reduce the incidence of avoidable blindness. This initiative represents Australia’s response to World Health Assembly resolution WHA56.26 on the elimination of avoidable blindness in member countries.

This document sets out a strategic National Framework for Action for the promotion of eye health and the prevention of avoidable blindness. It aims to provide a blueprint for nationally coordinated action by governments, health professionals, non-government organisations, industry and individuals to work in partnership.

The National Eye Health Framework does not focus on any one specific eye condition, but rather seeks to cover the underlying issues that are common to the prevention and treatment of eye disease and vision loss in general. It outlines five key action areas that have the potential to lead to the prevention of avoidable blindness and low vision.
They are:

  • reducing the risk of eye disease and injury;
  • increasing early detection;
  • improving access to eye health care services;
  • improving the systems and quality of care; and
  • improving the underlying evidence base.
The National Eye Health Framework is accompanied by a Background Paper which provides background information about eye disease in Australia, including the epidemiology of eye disease and injury, current treatments and the economic and social impact of blindness and vision loss.

In addition, the Background Paper provides an overview of the international and national policy context, the Australian eye health workforce, major eye health programs and services, eye health research capacity and related public health strategies. The Background Paper is by necessity broader in scope than that of the National Eye Health Framework, which has as its primary focus the promotion of eye health and prevention of avoidable blindness.

These two documents are intended at this stage to form a starting point for the coordination of national action on eye health. Implementation of the strategies outlined in the National Eye Health Framework will be up to government agencies, health care professionals, non-government organisations, training institutions, the private sector and other interested parties working in collaboration.

The National Eye Health Framework has been developed by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and the Victorian Department of Human Services in consultation with all other Australian state and territory governments. Many organisations and individuals in the non-government sector have also contributed to the development of the Framework. Appendix Four in the Background Paper sets out details of the consultation process and the names of organisations and individuals who have provided input and comment to the Framework.
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