Aboriginal Canadian's Ocular and Visual Health: A Daunting Challenge - This article notes that more and more Aboriginal Canadians suffer from serious ocular and visual health problems, an issues that has gone largely ignored. An article in the October 2011 edition of Optik Magazine, a bilingual publication serving the Canadian eye care industry, draws attention to the issues, as well as the role of the NCCAH.
Healthy Eyesight and Childhood Development: Amblyopia
See related story on the Vision Institute of Canada website.
My Big Fat Diet (CBC
film clip) - This documentary with Dr. Jay Wortman reveals how members
of the Namgis First Nation return to a traditional-style of eating for
one year to deal with an escalating problem of obesity and diabetes.
Also: Visit Dr. Jay's blog.
2011 Aboriginal Vision Health Awareness Year
2011 marked the first Aboriginal Vision Health Awareness Year, a campaign by the Vision Institute of Canada to promote eye health care for First Nations, Inuit and Métis and to raise awareness of the soaring rates of diabetes-related blindness facing Canada’s Aboriginal populations. The campaign was supported by the NCCAH, the Assembly of First Nations, the Chiefs of Ontario and other Aboriginal organizations.
Dr. Paul Chris, Executive Director of the Vision Institute, said that the campaign is one way to promote yearly comprehensive eye examinations for Aboriginal people with diabetes, particularly children. He noted in an article published in a special edition of the Canadian Journal of Optometry that “with the disproportionate and increasing number of native people with diabetes, and its occurrence at a much earlier age than the general population, diabetes will lead to a more significant burden of preventable vision loss in Aboriginal communities than in non-Aboriginal groups.”
On March 25, 2011, National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations, welcomed the initiative to declare 2011 Aboriginal Vision Health Awareness Year, noting that First Nations citizens with diabetes are 25 times more likely to experience vision loss and blindness than other populations. He noted that First Nations citizens also experience barriers to accessing prevention methods and vision health services. "Let this commemorative year shed much-needed education and awareness on the improvements and attention needed for the vision health of Aboriginal people in Canada," he said.
Aboriginal Vision Health Posters and Pamphlets
June 2011 - The NCCAH supported the Vision Institute of Canada in a poster campaign launched for Aboriginal Vision Health Year. The posters promote regular eye exams to maintain healthy vision. Poster requests have been received from organizations like the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada and initiatives like the Diabetes Integration Project in Manitoba, who are using these posters as part of their health promotion and prevention work. Posters have also been distributed on request to the health care units of Ontario provincial corrections facilities and youth detention centres, as well as the School of Nursing at the University of Ottawa.
Download the posters:
Download the Pamphlets:
Posters and brochures were printed and distributed to Aboriginal communities and Friendship Centres across Canada with financial donations from Alcon Canada. Dr. Paul Chris, of the Vision Institute of Canada, welcomes requests for copies. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Vision Institute of Canada for the first time highlighted this emerging health crisis during its October 2010 Annual Conference, billed as its “most important program in three decades.” About 20 per cent of the Canadian Aboriginal population lives with diabetes, a disease associated with long-term complications such as blindness, heart disease, kidney disease, infectious disease and amputations. The event was co-sponsored by the Canadian Association of Optometrists and supported by the NCCAH.
Guest speakers included Dr. Ann Macaulay, who holds the Order of Canada for her work on Aboriginal health, and Dr. Jay Wortman, MD, a Métis physician from BC featured in the documentary My Big Fat Diet. Ontario Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Angus Toulouse was also a special guest, and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network documented the conference. Dr. Jeff Reading, PhD, addressed social conditions underlying the diabetes epidemic, including the consequences of colonization, assimilation, and the loss of land and traditional livelihoods experienced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada. View conference program.
Lecture topics addressed issues related to the links between diabetes and eye health, the role of diet and traditional Aboriginal diets, telemedicine and remote northern communities, cultural relevance in eye examinations, and more. A DVD of the event is now available – (brochure and order form).
View our related slideshow:
Dr. Chris said this conference helped educate medical professionals, Aboriginal health workers and policy makers, and provided a key opportunity for optometry to “demonstrate its concern and readiness to respond to this emerging health crisis.” He said one outcome has been the ongoing opportunity to work together with Aboriginal communities and organizations to help raise awareness of eye health in the Aboriginal population.
Canada lags "well behind" other countries in addressing Aboriginal eye health
The NCCAH found in a 2007 review of programs, resources and research related to preschool screening and Aboriginal eye health that Canada is “well behind other countries in addressing Aboriginal eye health and vision care services.” The NCCAH review noted that both the United States and Australia have developed innovative, Aboriginal specific, community-controlled programs and promotional material that can serve as models for improved vision and eye health care.
One of the challenges for Aboriginal populations in Canada is access to vision health services due to issues such as cost, rural and remote locations, and the availability of optometrists or ophthalmologists. Dr. Chris said more funding and research is required to fill the gap in scientific knowledge about Aboriginal vision health. He also said that optometrists, professional organizations and partners need to work with Aboriginal peoples and their organizations to support improved education and awareness.