The Primary Health Care Activity (PHC Activity) is a component of the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme (IAHP), which aims to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to effective health care services across the nation. The PHC Activity provides grant funding to a range of organisations including Aboriginal community controlled health organisations (ACCHOs), to support and deliver comprehensive, culturally appropriate primary health care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and provide system-level support to the Indigenous primary health care sector.
The Department also supports primary health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by facilitating ACCHOs’ access to Medicare billing through a Direction under subsection 19(2) of the Health Insurance Act (1973). For further information, see Access to Medicare for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) under 19(2) and 19(5) Directions.
Eyes and ear health
Activities to improve the eye and ear health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians include:
- Multilateral Trachoma Project Agreement – Trachoma, a bacterial eye infection, occurs mainly in remote and very remote Indigenous communities. Funding is provided to state and territory government in WA, SA, NT, NSW and QLD to undertake trachoma screening and treatment activities, in line with the National Guidelines for the Public Management of Trachoma in Australia.
- Trachoma Surveillance and Monitoring – Australia is a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s Alliance for Global Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020 and is required to regularly provide data about trachoma prevalence. Funding is provided to operate the National Trachoma Surveillance and Reporting Unit (NTSRU). The NTSRU is currently operated by The Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales. For further information see Trachoma Surveillance Reports
- Indigenous Eye Health Unit (IEHU), University of Melbourne – the IEHU is funded to support a range of activities to improve the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
- Visiting Optometrists Scheme (VOS) - The VOS improves access to optometry for people in regional, rural and remote locations by addressing a range of financial disincentives incurred by optometrists providing outreach services (travel, accommodation, facility hire). Further information on the VOS is available on the Visiting Optometrists Scheme
- Eye Surgical Support - The Eye Surgical Support Program expedites access to surgery for eye health conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients who have been on lengthy waiting lists, with a focus on patients from rural and remote locations. This initiative supports travel and accommodation for the health professional, patient and a carer.
- Eye Health Equipment - Retinal cameras and training of health professionals in their use is being made available over 2016-17 - 2018-19. Around 100 cameras will be made available to Aboriginal Medical Services and mainstream health services with a high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients primarily in rural and remote Australia.
- Healthy Ears - Better Hearing, Better Listening Program – improves access to ear and hearing health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth, with a focus on rural and remote locations. The program supports multidisciplinary outreach services provided by a range of health professionals, including medical specialists, GPs, nurses, audiologists and speech pathologists. Services are implemented in each state by a fundholder organisation. .
- Ear Surgical Support Initiative – expedites access to surgery for Indigenous children who have been on lengthy waiting lists, with a focus to children from rural and remote locations. This initiative supports travel and accommodation for the health professional, patient and a carer.
- Care for Kids’ Ears Resources – provides a range of resources to increase awareness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians of risk factors for ear disease and the importance of seeking and following treatment regimes to prevent ear disease and hearing loss. Resources include activities to highlight the importance of hygiene and early intervention and the impact of smoking and nutrition on the ear health of children. Further information is available at the Care for Kids’ Ears website.
- Ear Equipment - All Commonwealth funded Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS)’s and health clinics with a predominance of Indigenous patients have access to the supply and maintenance of ear and hearing assessment equipment.
- Ear Health Assessment Training - Training is available nationally, including to clinics in remote locations. Participants include Aboriginal health workers, GPs and nurses. On completion of training, health professionals will have a skills base to more readily recognise clinical symptoms and behaviours that indicate ear health issues and initiate early intervention or ongoing surveillance. They will also able to conduct comprehensive audiometry screening and assessment. Further information is available at The Benchmarque Group website.
- Ear Health Coordination - Coordinators support AMSs to focus on ear health issues, including prevention, surveillance, treatment and management. Assistance is also provided to streamline referrals to other services.
- Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment (NTRAI) - provides funding to improve the health and wellbeing of children in remote Northern Territory communities by supporting the provision of integrated hearing and oral health services. Further information see Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment - Health
Other activities funded by the Australian Government Department of Health supporting eye and ear health
- 140 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access to effective, high quality culturally appropriate primary health care across Australia. Primary health care services include management of eye and ear health.
- The New Directions Mothers and Babies Services provides Indigenous children and their mothers with information about baby care, practical advice about parenting, monitoring of developmental milestones and health checks and referrals for treatment before children start school.
- The Tackling Indigenous Smoking initiative includes awareness raising activities to reduce exposure to passive smoking in families, especially children.
- The Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) health check for Indigenous Australians (item 715) includes a requirement to check eye and ear health.
- The Australian Government administers vaccination programs for Indigenous Australians through the National Immunisation Program. The Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib) vaccination has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence of ear infection.
Healthy for Life
The 2014 Federal Budget included $36.232 million over three years to expand the Healthy for Life program, which aims to improve clinical care in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS). The Government has committed funding (through the expansion of the Healthy for Life program) to support the implementation of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) initiatives in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care.
Funding is being provided to ACCHS, who provide primary health care services, to undertake CQI activities in their organisations. The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the State and Territory Peak Body organisations are also being funded to support ACCHS to embed CQI within their services.Top of page