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Cause For Hope

Cause For Hope

Media Release From Retina New Zealand
"Medical and scientific research has been making progress in seeking blindness prevention, halting sight loss and may even contribute to sight restoration", says the President of Retina New Zealand, Anthony Haas.

"Basically, New Zealand's Retina International Toronto conferences delegation felt the scientific reports gave cause for more hope, sooner", he said, following his attendance at the July conference. Gene and protein research, pharmaceutical agents, therapies, stem cells, and surgical interventions such as transplants might reduce sight loss, and might help restore sight. "There are risks, and individuals may have increased opportunity to make personal choices as to whether they want to be part of the research and development, the information process, the peer support and public education", said Anthony Haas in a statement for World Retina Day, the last Saturday in September.

The United Kingdom's Dr Alan Bird, Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, and a mentor to New Zealand's ophthalmologist Dr Dianne Sharpe said, at the conference conclusion, that the general view was that "treatment is not far off" for some retinal conditions. He said clinicians should prepare for this eventuality and that patient co-operation through participation in data base development and other ways was needed, and those clinicians should prepare patients to play their role. Dr Jose Sahel, Louis Pasteur University Paris,
also called for clinician-patient co-operation to be expanded, and final speakers also commended the value of the Retina International conference where scientists, clinicians and consumers conferred together.

Who are Retina New Zealand Inc?
Retina NZ Inc. is a non-profit organisation made up of people with eye conditions that provides services to fellow members such that they can cope with their condition and hope for the emergence of treatments for permanent conditions causing sight-impairment and blindness.

Retina NZ's specific aims are:

* Raising public awareness about retinal degenerative disorders
* Establishing links between families and optometrists,
ophthalmologists, scientists, the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, government organisations, and social services
* Providing members with information about their disorder, medical research, visual and physical aids, entitlements of the blind and partially sighted.
* Pressing for Government-funded research and raising money to sponsor research Peer support Retina New Zealand has a network of Peer Supporters who could talk with people on the phone about their personal experiences in living with their retinal dystrophy and point to other sources of information.
Contact can be made through the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind on 0800 24 33 33 or Telefriend on 0800 100 051.
Our blindness-friendly website aims to educate all groups associated with our work and includes information about:

* Your Eye condition
* Medical and scientific conference summaries
* List of related consumer groups, research institutes and peer support, websites and e-mail addresses.

Through Retina NZ's website and our print resources we are working to help ophthalmologists, optometrists, rehabilitation professionals, consumers, families, and carers to better inform those with retinal dystrophies about how to cope and what to hope for as scientists and their allies make the fruits of breakthroughs publicly accessible. We are pooling our human resources and linking to information and better communication channels so that we can build a more helpful community around Retina NZ.

Saturday 30th September is World Retina Day, where equivalent groups to Retina NZ worldwide celebrate, publicise, and educate the sighted public about advances in medical and scientific research leading to treatments for eye conditions causing severe sight impairments and blindness.

World Retina Day 2000
Retina NZ's aim for World Retina Day 2000 is to publicise the exciting discoveries about which the New Zealand delegation to the Retina International conference learned. We wish to relate the potential from the gene, stem cell, pharmaceutical, therapeutic and other research to mainstream media be they national or local, printed or electronic.

How can retina nz help affected people and interested public ?
Retina New Zealand has a nationwide group of people with retinal conditions willing to provide peer support over the telephone and assistance in the dissemination of information using our web-site and conference summaries in audio format. If Retina New Zealand can be of assistance, please contact us:

Auckland to Taupo:
Fraser Alexander
Ph: (09) 355 6914

Taupo to Wellington:
Pat Nicolson
Phone: (04) 233 8140

Nelson/Canterbury/West Coast :
Kay Newton
Ph: (03) 3795 807
E-mail :

Helen Adams
Ph: (03) 467 2278

National president
Anthony Haas:
Ph: (04) 385 0237

Fraser Alexander
Public Education Co-ordinator
Retina New Zealand Inc.

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