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Eye health in rural Australia


Professor David Simmons, Department of Rural Health, University of Melbourne, Graham Street, Shepparton, Vic. 3630, Australia. Email:


A review of the current literature relating to eye health in rural Australia was conducted. Few studies have been undertaken, with most information provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare databases, The National Trachoma and Eye Health Program of 1980 and the Visual Impairment Project in Victoria in the mid 1990s. Key findings were that the rural population has an increased prevalence of pterygium, cataract, ocular trauma and glaucoma, but no difference in refractive error or diabetic retinopathy (although data are limited). Rural residents are more likely to have seen an optometrist but less likely to have seen an ophthalmologist. Interventions have been undertaken in ophthalmologist training to increase the rural workforce and tele-ophthalmology to provide city-based metropolitan ophthalmological support for rural practitioners. Further epidemiological data and evaluated interventions are urgently required to help identify and address the needs of rural Australian communities.