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Turner: Ray of light on vision-testing fiasco

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

Turner: Ray of light on vision-testing fiasco

Associate Health Minister Pete Hodgson's pledge under questioning in Parliament today to look at evidence on the flawed national schools vision and hearing testing programme was the first positive sign from the Government in "12 months of ministerial evasion", United Future deputy leader Judy Turner said.

"There is strong evidence that this programme falsely clears up to 40 percent of children and we've had Annette King, Trevor Mallard and Damian O'Connor show no interest at all in the scheme, and consequently whether our kids can see or not.

"Indeed, the Government surpassed itself last week by disgracefully blocking my move for a select committee inquiry into the programme," she said. "So I salute Pete Hodgson for having the integrity to do what his colleagues wouldn't and actually look at the evidence."

Last year, Mrs Turner revealed a two-year trial carried at Wanganui's Castlecliff School involving 71 children who had been cleared by the screening programme. They were then assessed by an optometrist, with the result that 28 of them (40 percent) needed glasses immediately and a further 16 (23%) were asked to return in 12 months for further tests.

New Zealand's screening programme does not test for long-sightedness or eye co-ordination problems and one Australian study indicated that the tests carried out here detect less than 10% of vision problems in children, Mrs Turner said.

"It would be lovely to think that on the same day that this Government proudly launches a two-year health and nutrition pilot in 65 schools, it at last commits itself to having those healthy and well-nourished children able to see the blackboard."


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