Sports carnival to help keep an eye on good health

Promotional graphic for eye health checks at the 2018 VACSAL Senior Aboriginal Football & Netball Carnival.
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness amongst Aboriginal communities.

Eye health will be a focus at the 2018 VACSAL Senior Aboriginal Football & Netball Carnival in Ballarat, a three-day event celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and pride.

The state-wide football and netball carnival from 12-14 October will bring together Victoria’s Aboriginal community and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Participants will take part in round-robin tournaments, workshops, children's activities such as gymnastics and face-painting, food stalls and merchandise.

Co-hosts VACSAL (Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association) and BADAC (Ballarat And District Aboriginal Cooperative) have declared the event sugar-free, with healthy food options and messages promoting healthy lifestyles.

The University of Melbourne’s Indigenous Eye Health (IEH) will hold a stall with BADAC, Central Highlands Primary Care Partnership, Diabetes VictoriaVision 2020 Australia and Vision Australia to promote awareness of eye health and diabetes.

BADAC Chief Executive Officer Karen Heap said the decision to make the carnival sugar-free was due to the high rate of diabetes and heart conditions in the Aboriginal community.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness amongst Aboriginal communities, and up to 98 per cent of vision loss and blindness is preventable with early detection and treatment.

Carnival football and netball umpires will wear IEH’s branded ‘Check Today, See Tomorrow’ t-shirts promoting the need for annual eye checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes.

Melbourne AFL star and Indigenous Eye Health Ambassador Neville Jetta has filmed a video message supporting the carnival’s healthy lifestyle.

IEH is part of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health and since 2008 has undertaken world-leading research to establish an evidence base and policy framework to address Indigenous eye health in Australia.

The research led by Laureate Professor Hugh Taylor established the state of Indigenous eye health and set goals to improve it via the Close the Gap for Vision initiative.

The research found Indigenous rates of blindness were initially six times more than other Australians, and low vision rates three times higher. The main causes of vision loss causes were cataract, refractive errors, diabetic eye disease and trachoma.

In 2012, The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision made 42 recommendations to improve Indigenous eye health; these have helped reduce blindness rates to three times more than the wider population.

Professor Taylor said the Ballarat event was an opportunity to connect with local communities and support locally appropriate eye communication and awareness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“This wonderful event is the perfect opportunity to encourage Indigenous community members to have their eyes checked, especially those who have diabetes,” Professor Taylor said.

“We already have numerous success stories, where someone’s sight has been saved or improved following simple eye checks and treatment, and would love to see many more.”

VACSAL is a community based and controlled agency that advises governments on community development issues and provides services to the Aboriginal community in metropolitan and some regional communities.