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Optometrists act on children's vision concerns

27 July 2005

Optometrists act on children's vision concerns

Optometrists around the country are putting their money where their mouths are and taking action on concerns over children's vision as part of the annual Save our Sight campaign in August.

More than five hundred vouchers for children's eye examinations have been distributed by the nation's Hearing Vision Technicians as they visit schools up and down the country screening for eye problems among primary school pupils.

During the first week in August (1-5 August) children will be able to redeem the vouchers and have a comprehensive eye examination at absolutely no cost. If the exam reveals a need for spectacles then frames and lenses will also be supplied to the children courtesy of sponsors from the optical wholesale industry.

The initiative targets children between the ages of 8 and 13 who have an identified issue arising from eye screening or who have been referred for reading recovery or other learning difficulty.

"Good vision is essential for a child to reach their full potential," says Dr Lesley Frederikson, National Director of the NZ Association of Optometrists, "more than 80% of a child's learning is gained through vision so it is easy to see how vision problems can detract from educational and social development."

The percentage of children with vision problems increases with age. In the case of myopia and hyperopia (short and long sightedness) the incidence of these conditions triples between the ages of five and 11.

"Australian research shows that almost 20% of children will be either myopic or hyperopic by the time they reach secondary school and for two thirds of them the condition will not have been recognised", Dr Frederikson says.

"The Save our Sight campaign aims to raise public awareness of eye health and the need for good vision for all ages. Helping children to see well and learn well is part of this effort and the NZ Association of Optometrists is proud to assist children in this way."

Editorial

Save Our Sight Month raises awareness among the general public and targets at-risk groups to remind them of the need for regular, comprehensive eye examinations to detect eye health problems, general health issues, and vision difficulties.

The Save our Sight campaign is led by the NZ Association of Optometrists, endorsed and supported by Retina NZ, Glaucoma NZ, Diabetes NZ, the Save Sight Society and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmology.

The symbol of the Save our Sight Campaign is the variegated Tulip. The Variegated Tulip signifies "Beautiful Eyes".

Introduction

Welcome to Save Our Sight 2005 the public awareness campaign for eye health.

In each year since 2002, the New Zealand Association of Optometrists has headed a month-long eye health promotion campaign called Save Our Sight. The fact that regular eye examinations can save our sight is the simple key message.

Aims of Save our Sight 2005

* To communicate to New Zealanders that a regular eye examination by an optometrist can save their sight.

* To communicate to New Zealanders that eye health is an essential part of maintaining personal health and wellbeing.

* To promote eye health as an important public health issue for health planners within the categories of non-communicable disease and chronic illness.

You only get one pair of eyes - look after them

More than 60,000 New Zealanders age 40 and older have glaucoma. At least half do not know they have it. Untreated, glaucoma will cause loss of sight.

Twenty thousand New Zealanders have already lost sight due to Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) and a further 2,000 are developing the disease each year. Smoking and dietary factors are related to the progression of the disease.

ACC processed more than 17,000 claims for eye injury accidents last year. US analysis of hospital treatments for eye injuries indicates that around 90% of all eye injuries are preventable.

13,200 New Zealand children are blind or have a sight impairment that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses. Early detection and correction of sight problems in children is essential because development of the visual system is complete by the age of nine.

People need to:

* Stop smoking (whatever your age) * Eat for eye health * Early detection saves sight - regular eye exams recommended


* If you are over 40 you should see the optometrist every 2 years.

* If you have diabetes or other health problems then you need to see your optometrist more often.

* If you have a family history of glaucoma then you are advised to see your optometrist every year.

The Save our Sight campaign is led by the New Zealand Association of Optometrists , endorsed and supported by Retina New Zealand, Glaucoma New Zealand, Diabetes NZ, the Save Sight Society and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmology.

The symbol of the Save our Sight campaign is the variegated Tulip. The variegated Tulip signifies "Beautiful Eyes".

Timeframe

The Save our Sight campaign runs for the month of August. Each week has its own theme. The themes for this year are:

Week 1 (1-5 August) - Eye Health for Life. The focus is on the importance of protecting vision, from childhood to old age. Children's Eyecare Day is held during this week and around 500 needy children are provided with eye exams and glasses if needed courtesy of NZAO optometrists and our sponsors from the optical wholesale industry.

Week 2 (8-12 August) -

Glaucoma Week. During this week Glaucoma NZ is organizing a nationwide Mayoral glaucoma check. Mayors from many towns and cities will be attending clinics to have their eyes checked for glaucoma. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in the western world.

Week 3 (15-19 August) -

Focus on the ageing eye. Key conditions associated with loss of sight have a major impact on our ageing population. Awareness of threats to sight will be highlighted together with the need for good vision as a basis for independent living. Life-long protection of eye health is a key message. People will be advised to eat for eye health and quit smoking. Smoking is the major preventable cause of the most common type of blindness in New Zealand.

Week 4 (22-26 August) - Eye Safety Week. Focus on the alarmingly high rates of eye injury accidents and the need for prevention. Prof. Charles McGhee will publicise some of his findings from Auckland hospital. The use of protective eyewear at work and in DIY and gardening situations is an incredibly important message to convey. Some 90% of eye injury accidents are preventable.

ENDS


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