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Save Our Sight Month Looms In August

Diary note: The following information outlines the activities to take place in Save our Sight month. Further material relating to each week’s focus will be provided throughout the month. For more information or for interviews please contact the National Director of the New Zealand Association of Optometrists, Dr Lesley Frederikson on 04 473 2322

Save Our Sight

The Save our Sight coalition is staging its annual, month-long awareness campaign in August 2004.

The Save our Sight (SOS) campaign is endorsed and supported by the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB), Retina New Zealand, and the New Zealand Association of Optometrists along with Glaucoma New Zealand, Diabetes NZ, the Save Sight Society and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmology.

The key objectives of the campaign are to:

Reduce preventable blindness through greater public awareness of sight threatening conditions. Highlight eye health as an important public health issue Communicate to all New Zealanders that early intervention can save their sight.

Each week of the month will focus on a different issue relating to eye health.

Week one: August 1 – 7 Launch of key messages on eye health

Key eye health and blindness figures will be published.

A reception in Wellington will announce the Healthy People – Healthy Eyes strategy and its objectives. This is intended to bring together representatives from all the key constituents in the sector – eye health professionals, Save our Sight partners and policy makers.

Glaucoma NZ will offer free public membership enabling people with Glaucoma to access a variety of resources free of charge.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind SOS advertising campaign will be launched following this week to ensure the messages about preventing blindness are widely communicated to the public.

Week two: August 8 – 14 Focus on Age-related Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is an eye disease that causes loss of central vision, leaving only peripheral, or side, vision intact. It is the leading cause of blindness for people over 50 in New Zealand.

This week will focus on awareness of the need for regular checks and awareness of symptoms which may indicate AMD is present. An resources pack is to be distributed to all Grey Power Groups, Age Concern and RSAs. Retina NZ will be hosting community information meetings in several centres during the campaign.

The aim will be to improve understanding of AMD generally and to promote self monitoring with Amsler grids. Information on research findings with respect to diet and nutrition will be a feature and issues around low vision will be highlighted. The peer support network of Retina NZ will be promoted for those living with visual impairment and facing progressive loss of sight.

Week three: August 15 – 21 Focus on Diabetic Eye Disease

The Type 2 diabetes epidemic is putting more and more people at risk of developing diabetic eye disease. The high rate of undiagnosed diabetes in the general population means that people can lose eyesight without knowing why.

It is vital for people to understand that fluctuating vision is an important early sign that diabetes might be present.

People with diabetes need to take steps to preserve maximum eyesight and visual function.

During this week people with diabetes will be encouraged to see optometrists as a community resource for help and advice on matters pertaining to their eyes.

Week four: August 22 – 29 Children’s Eye Health and Eye Safety Week

A feature of the week will be Funky Eye Friday where children will be encouraged to make box eye cameras which provide a hands-on simulation of how the eye works. Useful information about focus and the eye is provided as part of the package. The RNZFB will co-ordinate the participation of children in the Funky Eye Friday Funky Frames competition.

For Children’s Eyecare Day (28 or 29 August depending on location) NZAO optometrists will be providing eye exams and glasses (where needed) to children from needy families around New Zealand.

For older people the link between visual impairment and falls will be explored. Information from the Blue Mountains Eye Study will be available. The need to protect eyes from UV radiation will also be featured.

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