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Beehive Calls SOS for Eyesight

Media Release

31 July 2003

Beehive Calls SOS for Eyesight

All eyes were on the Beehive today as Hon Ruth Dyson officially opened the month-long Save Our Sight (SOS) eye health awareness campaign for August, encouraging New Zealanders to have regular eye examinations to save their sight.

Leading the charge on eye health is the SOS coalition which includes the New Zealand Association of Optometrists (NZAO), the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB), Retina New Zealand and the Save Sight Society.

Andrew Sangster, President of the New Zealand Association of Optometrists, said eyesight was an extremely important public health issue which impacts significantly on the economic, health and social well-being of New Zealand. Yet, little was clearly understood about the real extent of the problem.

"The Government doesn't accurately know the true level of blindness and sight-related disability. So, the SOS coalition wants to see a more integrated approach towards developing public policy incorporation with consumers, providers and government policy makers," said Mr Sangster.

The statistics on eye health are frightening to read. More than 81,000 New Zealand adults and 13,000 children are blind or sight impaired which glasses or contact lenses can't correct. Of the 150,000 diabetic patients facing the possibility of failing eyesight, 40,000 have already lost some of their sight and this cannot be reversed.

Last year, ACC recorded more than 16,000 eye-related work accidents and optometrists say a little recognised form of blindness, called macular degeneration, is taking the sight of more than 2,000 New Zealanders per annum. Diagnosed early, in many cases this blindness could be avoided, Mr Sangster said.

The loss per capita GNP due to blindness is about $18,000 per person per year on average.

Taking more responsibility for your own eye health was a key message for the public.

"Our simple point to New Zealanders is that your eyesight is worth looking into and early detection is key to combating the rising level of eye diseases and loss of vision," said Dr Lesley Frederikson, spokesperson for the SOS coalition.

"We have had some great successes with a number of eye health initiatives such as the Children's Vision subsidy and the Contact Lenses Benefit scheme for patients with keratoconnus and high myopia, however, it is important that individuals consider regular eye examinations so any problems can be detected early and treated early."

The RNZFB said the blindness of at least 20 percent of the people registered with the foundation was preventable.

"Your eyesight is such a precious commodity and it is worth protecting. Loss of vision impacts severely on many aspects of life, like our ability to access information, to choose any career and our right to maintain independence," said Chris Inglis, Divisional Manager, Blindness Awareness and Prevention, RNZFB.

Sight impairment also affects one sixth of our children between the ages of five to 12 and limits their ability to learn, to read and to play sport.

During the month of August each week will have a different theme with various supporting activities. From August 1 to 4 SOS concentrates on general eye health and blindness prevention, August 5 to10 glaucoma, August 11 to 17 diabetes and Pacific Island people's eye health, August 18 to 24 age-related macular degeneration and the final week August 25 to 31 children's vision and eye safety (Funky Eye Friday 29 August 2003).


Funky Eye Friday is organised by the Save Our Sight coalition and aims to increase New Zealand children and parents' awareness of the importance of having regular eye tests in order to maintain healthy vision. 80 percent of a child's learning comes through vision, but often parents and teachers overlook vision problems as a cause of learning difficulties and most children will not be aware that they have poor vision.

The New Zealand Association of Optometrists recommends school age children have their eyes tested annually to ensure that potentially serious disorders are detected early.

Entries can be made from practically anything your students can think of, and should be sent to the address on the form before September 19th 2003 with an entry form to accompany each pair of eyeglass frames.

If you require any further information see:

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