Research Activities

Aboriginal Vision Health Initiative

The Vision Institute of Canada undertook a project in 2008 to improve the level of eye health and vision care services being delivered to Indigenous communities across Canada. The purpose of this Aboriginal Vision Health Initiative was: 

1) to raise the awareness of Canadian optometrists (who provide over 80% of the comprehensive eye examinations in Canada) about the vision health issues facing Aboriginal people;
2) to raise the awareness of Aboriginal leaders and health-care workers about the potential epidemic of preventable vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy that is facing the Aboriginal community due to the high rates of diabetes and the lack of vision care services available to them;

3) to raise the awareness of government and Aboriginal policy-makers about the need for an action plan to address the vision and eye health issues facing Aboriginal children and adults; and
4) to develop and implement out-reach programs to those Aboriginal communities in need of vision care services.

Indigenous people are the largest growing segment of Canada's population, increasing at a rate six times faster than non-Indigenous people. They account for nearly four percent of the total population of Canada - second only to New Zealand in percentage of native to non-native people. In Canada, almost half the native population is below 25 years of age, compared to 40 years for the non-native population. The incidence of diabetes, with its ocular complications, is also five times higher among native groups.

With the relatively young age of our Aboriginal people, we are also looking at the vision health of, and delivery of vision care services to, Aboriginal children.

The Vision Institute, with the support of all the provincial Optometry regulatory Colleges, mailed a short survey to all optometrists across Canada during the first half of 2009 as an insert in a College mailing to its members. 

On Friday, October 22nd, 2010, the Vision Institute held an Aboriginal Vision Health Conference as part of its annual three day continuing education program for optometrists and Aboriginal health care workers.

We also declared 2011 Aboriginal Vision Health Awareness YearWith the support of the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, we worked to raise awareness about vision and eye health in Aboriginal people in Canada. (For more information see the section on Aboriginal Vision Health Awareness Year in the About Us section.)

The staff and Board of Directors of the Vision Institute continued this initiative with a four year strategy (2012 to 2015) to help make a difference in Aboriginal health through continued efforts to raise awareness about vision and eye health issues as they effect First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. In 2015 this initiative was extended for another four years from 2016 to 2019.

Ethics of Aboriginal Research
This paper, by Marlene Brant Castellano, has been adopted as an ethical guideline for these projects.

Aboriginal children's health: Leaving no child behind
UNICEF Canada released this report which explores the health of Aboriginal children in Canada. 

(Used with the permission of UNICEF Canada.)

Indigenous Children's Health Report: Health Assessment in Action
This report, prepared by Dr. Janet Smylie, MD,  MPH, was released in 2009. It examines the health issues facing Aboriginal children and their communities around the world.

Last updated November 2019.


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