Due to housing and living conditions and limited health services in Aboriginal communities, the Aboriginal population bears almost the entire burden of Australia’s trachoma endemic. The average prevalence of active trachoma in at-risk regions in Western Australia (WA), South Australia (SA) and the Northern Territory (NT) is 4.9%, but in some hyper-endemic communities, the prevalence may be higher than 25%. Past analyses of programmes concerning the reduction of trachoma have found that many of their challenges relate to a failure to foster leadership, engagement and ownership of anti-trachoma strategies from within Aboriginal communities.
From January 2015 to October 2016, The Trust and its partners in Australia piloted the Safe Eyes programme, which aimed to develop Aboriginal-led and community-owned strategies for the reduction of trachoma in three remote Aboriginal communities. Focusing on the facial cleanliness (F) and environmental improvement (E) components of the WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy, Safe Eyes worked in close partnership with Aboriginal leaders, community members and health workers in Yalata (SA), Utju (NT) and Kiwirrkurra (WA) communities.
What we have achieved
Each community developed its own context specific plans for the reduction of trachoma. Yalata created community facilities to help residents improve hygiene; Utju developed a draft plan whose implementation was yet to begin in October 2016; and Kiwirrkurra incorporated F and E messages into the daily work of its environmental health professionals. Learnings from the Safe Eyes programme will now be taken to inform the further development of a community engagement model that can be utilised more widely across Australia.
Clean Faces and Strong Eyes group photo
Washing hands Trachoma