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Campaign for blindness prevention in September

Retina New Zealand Inc.

Fighting Blindness
PO Box 27 177, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: (04) 389 1538 Fax: (04) 389 5254
Email: retinanz@ihug.co.nz

Campaign for blindness prevention in September

Campaigning for blindness prevention should be stepped up says the President of Retina New Zealand, Anthony Haas.

His comments come on the eve of his departure for Tokyo to attend the Retina International conference in the first week of August.

Retina New Zealand has a strong commitment to blindness prevention – and is a saying so as part of a Save Our Sight campaign in September.

Retina New Zealand, the New Zealand Association of Optometrists and the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind are leading the charge to fight blindness – and invite others to express their support.

The momentum to fight blindness can be stepped up more in New Zealand in the September Save our Sight campaign.

“Hopefully people will realise they need to take a first step and visit an optometrist for regular eye examinations” says Anthony Haas, a Wellington based publisher with macular degeneration.

This year’s Retina Week for the Prevention of Blindness will be marked by the launch of a campaign to reduce the disparities that exist here and around the world in terms of access to regular eye exams, treatment options and rehabilitation for people with sight-threatening conditions. As part of its aim to ‘think global and act local’ Retina New Zealand will publish information on Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), patient testimonials and socio-economic data.

The aim is to provide members of the AMD Alliance International and Retina International with a tool to “demonstrate to local decision-makers and health care providers the inequalities and discrepancies that exist right here in New Zealand”. The campaign should also provide a vehicle by which members can “stress the importance of providing a high standard of care to AMD patients, especially since AMD primarily affects a group which is already at risk of being marginalised, namely the elderly population”.

Retina New Zealand, which is also a special interest group of the RNZFB, values the RNZFB Blindness Awareness and Prevention programme. It seeks to widen its range of partnerships with other bodies and thus bring more resources to bear on blindness prevention.

Since Prime Minister Helen Clark helpfully briefed Retina New Zealand earlier this year on ways to advance the cause of the NZ Disability Strategy, Retina New Zealand, a consumer society, has worked to widen support in New Zealand for the right to sight. It is recognised as a global problem but more needs to be done locally within New Zealand.

With this in mind, organisations with consumer and provider perspectives attended a World Health Organisation ‘Vision 2020’ meeting convened by Auckland University’s Discipline of Ophthalmology.

The Vision 2020 for the right to sight is “working together to prevent avoidable blindness and improve vision care”. People have been signing the right to sight global declaration “to eliminate the main causes of blindness in order to give all people of the world, particularly the needlessly blind, the right to sight”.

“We want to reach out further to all New Zealanders who should take steps to have a professional eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.” says Anthony Haas. Retina New Zealand is particularly supporting blindness prevention initiatives for people in greatest need, including those who have not been adequately reached in the past such as Pacific peoples.

We believe, and would value endorsement from like-minded people, that blindness prevention is important. As the Vision 2020 Global Declaration says, we seek “to raise awareness, mobilise resources and develop national blindness prevention programmes with governments to prevent an additional 100 million people from being blind by 2020”.

The issue, says the declaration, is that “there are 45 million blind people and a further 135 million people with serious visual impairment in the world today. If urgent action is not taken these numbers will double over the next 20 years”. The New Zealand situation is just as serious. Already 81,500 people are blind or have loss of vision not able to be corrected by treatment or spectacles. We have an explosion of diabetes and glaucoma running at about 9% across the population with half the cases being undiagnosed.

“This is unacceptable from a humanitarian and socio-economic point of view. Cost effective interventions are available for all major blinding conditions”, says Anthony Haas.

- For further information please contact the New Zealand Association of Optometrists, P O Box 1978, Wellington. Ph: 0800 439 322

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