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Support Overseas Eye Care Work

Appeal to New Zealanders – Support Overseas Eye Care Work, but Don’t Forget your Own Eyes

New Zealand’s medical eye specialists have appealed for support for organisations involved in eye care work in developing countries.

On the eve of World Sight Day 2004 (Thursday, 14 October), The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) reminded New Zealanders of disturbing blindness rates in countries such as the Western Pacific and South East Asia.

“In these countries, losing sight or being born with vision impairment can have an enormous impact on lifestyle, education and employment opportunities. It can also mean decreased life expectancy,” said the Chair of RANZCO's New Zealand Branch, Dr Rod Keillor, of Dunedin. Dr Keillor said a number of New Zealand non-government organisations were assisting the global effort to eliminate avoidable blindness, including Voluntary Ophthalmic Services Overseas, a combined effort of optometrists and ophthalmologists.

More than 100 New Zealand and Australian ophthalmologists regularly work in aid projects in neighbouring countries, sometimes seeing hundreds of patients and performing numerous procedures, such as cataract removal. As with many other health professionals providing such voluntary assistance, these visits often are self-funded.

Dr Keillor said that, while the focus of this year’s World Sight Day was on eye care work in developing countries, New Zealanders, themselves, need to be vigilant in looking after their own eyesight.

“If you are aged over 50 years regular eye tests at least every three years may help prevent avoidable blindness or vision impairment,” said Dr Keillor.

For those in high risk groups, tests should be more regular. Diabetics should be having regular eye tests at least every 18-24 months. Other people at particular risk are those with a family history of eye diseases such as Glaucoma or age-related Macular Degeneration and those who are severely short-sighted, said Dr Keillor.

13 October 2004

For further information and/or interviews contact Rod Keillor on 0274 365556

SOURCE: Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists

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