Australian Trachoma Alliance: Safe Eyes Program
Eyes are very important to enable us to see, to learn, to live comfortably and to work and care for everyone in the community. There are various conditions that can impact our eyes and lead to blindness, a number of which are preventable with good environmental health conditions and adequate hygiene facilities.
Queen Elizabeth II has served as head of the Commonwealth of Nations of more than two billion people, for over 60 years. To celebrate her time in this role, the Queen is reaching out to communities across the world to help to eliminate causes of preventable blindness. Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eyes which can be treated and the Queen is hoping that in Australia we can work to address factors that perpetuate this infection to ensure that nobody su ers vision loss in the future as a result of this condition.
General Michael Jeffery has been appointed to be the Queen’s representative in Australia to work with Australian communities to eliminate trachoma. On behalf of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Trust Australia, General Jeffery, working with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) as the lead organisation, has formed the Australian Trachoma Alliance or the ATA. The ATA includes representatives from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Trust Australia, NACCHO, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Vision 2020 Australia and the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne to provide support and expertise.
Australia is the only first world nation that has not been able to eliminate trachoma.
In 2014, the Australian Trachoma Alliance convened a forum in Alice Springs of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations from the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. The forum discussed ways in which trachoma elimination would be achieved across the large region of Central Australia that includes substantial areas of the NT, SA and WA.
Following the forum, the Australian Trachoma Alliance (ATA) agreed to focus, as a rst step, on implementing a programme in three remote Aboriginal community pilot sites located within the Central Australian Tri-State region (WA, SA & NT). The project focuses upon the facial hygiene and environmental aspects of the evidence-based SAFE strategy1 and will be implemented within key community locations such as schools, childcare centres, sporting clubs and homes.
This programme will build upon those many current actions undertaken locally, regionally and nationally to eliminate trachoma across Australia and will encourage collaboration and co-ordination between health (including environmental health), housing, education, local government, childcare and sport and recreation sectors and agencies.
Most significantly, this program seeks to enable Aboriginal leadership and community ownership through developing local solutions to trachoma elimination and other communicable diseases. Each trial community will develop its own action plan to address both the facial hygiene and environmental health aspects of the program. Furthermore, each community action plan will establish baseline data and include measurement indicators determined by the community within the planning process to evaluate the program’s progress and success.
The three programme trial sites are:
1) Yalata, South Australia (Tullawon Health Service: www.tullawon.org.au)
2) Utju (Areyonga), Northern Territory (Central Australian Aboriginal Congress: www.caac.org.au)
3) Kiwirrkurra, Western Australia (Ngaanyatjarra Health Service: www.nghealth.org.au)
Outcome: What is the intended outcome from the initiative?
The elimination of trachoma in Australia by 2020 through Aboriginal leadership and community engagement.
Note: The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a SAFE strategy for trachoma elimination – S: Surgery A: Antibiotics, F: Facial Cleanliness and E: Environmental Health. Previous efforts in Australia have focussed on the surgical and antibiotic aspects of this strategy. The ATA and the Yalata Community will build on the progress made in eliminating trachoma within Australia, by addressing the Facial Cleanliness and Environmental Health aspects of the WHO strategy. This work will not only address eye health but also promote healthy lives through reducing the incidence of other communicable diseases which include such conditions as otitis media, rheumatic fever and gastroenteritis.