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Blindness in the Asia-Pacific

RANZCO Uses Coordinated Approach to Reduce Avoidable Blindness in the Asia-Pacific

World Sight Day this Thursday 11 October, reminds us that over 285 million people are visually impaired. New Zealand’s neighbours in the Asia-Pacific account for 73% of moderate to severe visual impairment worldwide, surprisingly a huge 80% of these cases could be avoided or cured, largely through cataract operations or the provision of spectacles.

Ophthalmologist and Chair of RANZCO’s International Development Committee Dr Neil Murray works in the Asia-Pacific region regularly, and has seen first hand the alarming number of people requiring treatment.

“Despite the great work of many eye health organisations, RANZCO identified several coordination issues in our region. On occasion we have seen a lack of communication with local stakeholders. This can lead to eye-care teams overwhelming local healthcare resources, a lack of provision for post-operative care, poor record keeping and a lack of consistency. There are also occasions when an eye-care team will go to a region just after another team has left. An unnecessary waste of resources when there are so many urgent cases elsewhere,” explains Dr Murray.

“We saw the opportunity to contribute to the reduction of avoidable blindness in the Asia-Pacific by providing our expertise in curriculum development, clinical guidelines and creating communication linkages between ophthalmologists, eye-care organisations and training institutions,” said Dr Murray.

“In July this year we launched an online platform funded by the Fred Hollows Foundation called the International Ophthalmology Development Register (IODR). It records the expertise and interests of RANZCO’s ophthalmologists and matches them with needs and opportunities in the developing world. These opportunities could be with non-government health organisations, educational institutions, or training hospitals. The IODR also promotes opportunities for Asia-Pacific based doctors to undertake necessary training in Australia and New Zealand,” said Dr Murray.

RANZCO Vice President Dr Stephen Best expressed excitement for the online platform. “RANZCO is enthusiastic about the coordinated approach, with the right take up it will actively contribute to Vision 2020’s mission of eliminating the main causes of avoidable blindness by the year 2020.”

Podcast of Dr Neil Murray discussing IODR

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