Improving Indigenous health
Professor Fred Hollows worked tirelessly to tackle the crippling health conditions and inequities experienced by Indigenous Australians.
Fred’s determination is what lies behind The Foundation’s extensive Indigenous program, which goes beyond primary eye health care and works towards resolving the underlying issues that contribute to poor eye health and health in general.
Indigenous Australians have lower incomes, higher rates of chronic disease, are more likely to live in overcrowded housing and are less likely to continue their education.
This is particularly evident in remote communities where people are disadvantaged by their distance from health care, education and employment opportunities.
The Foundation works with local communities and Indigenous organisations and governments at all levels to improve not only eye health but nutrition, aural health, women’s health, workforce training and community engagement.
"There are no excuses for Australia to be the only developed country in the world where people still suffer from trachoma, where Indigenous men in areas such as the east Katherine region have an average life expectancy of 46 years, where babies are dying at a rate three times higher than babies born to non-Indigenous parents." - Brian Doolan, CEO of The Foundation
Still much to do
Although there has been some improvement in Indigenous health since Fred first visited the Northern Territory of Australia in 1968, there is still much to do:
- Indigenous Australian adults today are 6 times more likely to be blind than non-Indigenous Australian adults and 12 times more likely to be blind from cataract.
- The mortality rate of Australia’s Indigenous infants is comparable to the rate in some developing countries.
- Life expectancy for Indigenous Australians is 10 years less than for all Australians.
How we work to improve Indigenous health in Australia
Fred learned the importance of working closely with local communities when he led the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program through remote Australia in the late 1970s.
The Foundation follows Fred’s lead. Our local partners include traditional owners' associations, Indigenous-managed health services, women's centres and community centres. We collaborate on innovative projects that improve health outcomes, strengthen culture and empower communities through self-determination.
As well as capacity building at the local level, we use the evidence we have gathered through years of experience in the community to advocate and lobby effectively in order to convince governments to pursue specific measures to improve Indigenous health.
Our goal is system reform and good health policy and practice at all levels – local, national and regional – to achieve genuinely accessible health and eye health services for all Indigenous Australians.
Close the Gap
One of Fred Hollows’ core beliefs was “equity between people”. Fred was shocked by the poor standard of health of Indigenous Australians compared to everyone else in Australia and spent his life working to close the gap.
The Fred Hollows Foundation is a strong voice in the Close the Gap campaign, through which a coalition of Australian non-government and development organisations are calling on the Australian Government to close the disturbing 10-year gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life expectancies and to do more to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.
The Close the Gap campaign asks for:
- equal access for Indigenous people to primary health care and infrastructure
- increased support for developing the Indigenous health workforce
- a commitment to support and nurture Indigenous community-controlled health services
- an urgent focus on early childhood development, maternal health, chronic illness and diseases
- support for the building blocks of good health, such as good nutrition, physical activity and adequate housing.
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