Health Service

25 Third St

PO Box 896
Katherine NT 0851

Phone: (08) 8972 9100

Phone: (08) 8972 9123

AGPAL / ISO accredited

Eye Health

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the tiny blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye are damaged, and is the most common cause of blindness in working age Australians, and the leading cause of blindness in Aboriginal people. However, in almost all cases, early detection of diabetic retinopathy through regular eye examinations can prevent it from leading to blindness.

Eye HealthPeople at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy have diabetes. About 80 percent of diabetics will develop diabetic retinopathy after 15 years of the disease. This is of particular concern to us given the prevalence of diabetes amongst Indigenous people.

With funding from the Federal Government through the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, we have established a dedicated Regional Eye Health Program.

Primarily, the Program, which is staffed by a specialist clinician (Senior Aboriginal Health Worker) who has been trained in retinal photography, screens people who have been diagnosed as having diabetes for diabetic retinopathy.
Using a special fundus camera (ours is a Topcon), retinal photography involves taking a detailed photo of the retina.

The clinician then interprets the photograph, identifying changes to the retina and other abnormalities. The photographs, and an accompanying report, are forwarded to the Ophthalmologist for review.

Being a regional Program, these services are made available to Indigenous people of the greater Katherine region, covering an area of 250,000 square kilometres. In addition to being effective in terms of diagnosis and cost, the beauty of screening in this way is its portability - the camera and accompanying equipment can be packed into a standard vehicle, and transported to any of the communities in the region.

Eye HealthWe acknowledge with gratitude the significant financial support provided to the Program by St John Ambulance Australia. This has enabled us to train two additional Aboriginal Health Workers in retinal photography, which assists in delivery of the service, and in ensuring sustainability of the Program.

While diabetic retinopathy remains the focus, the Program provides other eye health services, conducting visual acuities on clients with visual difficulties, providing glasses as appropriate, and referring to specialists such as Optometrists as necessary.