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Ministry Of Health Funds Low Vision Kits

Media Release
July 31 2008

Ministry Of Health Funds Low Vision Kits

Geoff Sargent -President NZ Association of Optometrists


The Ministry of Health has funded 300 kits containing low vision aids that could help many thousands of New Zealanders enjoy a better quality of life.

The kits are a special feature of this year’s New Zealand Association of Optometrists’ Save Our Sight awareness campaign that promotes the simple key message: regular eye examinations can save our sight.

The theme of this month’s campaign is low vision.

Association president Geoff Sargent says the statistics relating to low vision and blindness in New Zealand are chilling:

 More than 70,000 New Zealanders age 40 and older have glaucoma. At least half do not know they have it. Untreated, glaucoma will cause blindness.

 Twenty-five thousand New Zealanders have already lost sight due to Age Related Macular Degeneration and a further 2,000 are developing the disease each year. Smoking and diet are related to the progression of this disease.

 ACC process more than 17,000 claims for eye injury accidents most years. US analysis of hospital treatments for eye injuries indicates that around 90% of all eye injuries are preventable.

 Around 81,500 New Zealand adults and 13,200 children are legally 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.

“We’re delighted the Ministry of Health has recognised the need for people in the community to trial equipment to find what works best for them,” Mr Sargent says.

“The impact of this initiative will be huge for the many people living in areas where there is no organised low vision service and previously no chance to consider a large range of low vision aids.”

Ministry of Health spokesperson, Geraldine Woods, says "we are pleased to be able to support this initiative by the NZ Association of Optometrists. These kits will help people with low vision throughout NZ find equipment that best meets their needs."

The New Zealand Association of Optometrists will be promoting the importance of protecting vision from childhood through to old age throughout the month of August.

“The aim is to help highlight the truth about living with low vision and the regrettable links between low vision and: depression, loss of independence, the higher need for institutionalised care and the overall negative impact on general health for low vision sufferers.”

Caption: New Zealand Association of Optometrists president Geoff Sargent takes a closer look at the low vision kits funded by the Ministry of Health as part of the Save Our Sight 2008 awareness campaign.


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