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By Patrick Hutchens

 

Optometry Australia will launch this month a ‘Heat Map’ tool that provides a visual representation of relative eye health need across Australia, based on various clinical, demographic and eye-care indicators.

The National Eye Health Heat Map uses Australian National University spatial mapping technology to estimate areas of relative eye health need through a palette of ochre colours ranging from light to dark across a map of Australia. The Heat Map can display information by Statistical Area 3 (SA3) regions or Commonwealth electorate boundaries.

The tool will be used by Optometry Australia in its discussions with policymakers, including Members of Parliament and representatives of the Department of Health, and will be made publicly available on the Optometry Australia website in April.

It draws on data from the National Health Survey (ABS), Medicare statistics, Health Workforce Australia and Census, and was assembled with the assistance of a consultant working with the Centre for Eye Research Australia.

The data inputs are not conclusive, but are intended as a useful reference point for the optometry profession’s continuing discussions with the Australian Government.

Optometry Australia policy and advocacy advisor Christopher Poulter said the National Eye Health Heat Map provided a general indication of where the gaps or ‘hot spots’ might be across Australia regarding unmet need for eye care.

‘Although the map itself is unlikely to paint the whole picture due to limitations within the data, it does strongly suggest some regional areas of Australia have some of the highest levels of unmet need for eye care,’ he said.

‘We envisage this tool will prove to be very useful in supporting our ongoing discussions with government and other policy-makers in an effort to realise more targeted policy initiatives for optometry.’

The map features a risk-adjusted ‘eye care need score’ for each SA3 region, providing an overall benchmark of unmet need for eye care. Essentially, the higher the eye care need score allocated to a region, the more unmet need for eye care there is estimated to be in that region.

The map also allows the user to display different individual indicators relating to the estimated prevalence of different ocular conditions, associated risk factors and optometric service provision across SA3 regions of Australia.

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