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Hope Is In Sight For Aotearoa New Zealand

This Thursday, 8 October, New Zealand joins the rest of the world in observing World Sight Day to find solutions to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to sight.

To mark World Sight Day, Eye Health Aotearoa is launching an open letter petition, calling on the government and parliamentary parties to fund the first National Eye Health Survey as a priority in 2021. This is the first step in creating a National Eye Health Strategy to close the eye health equity gap in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This year the call to action is: Hope in Sight. Professor Steven Dakin, Head of the University of Auckland's School of Optometry and Vision Science, and Chair of Eye Health Aotearoa, is hopeful too.

“The current system is flawed,” says Professor Dakin, “but we are hopeful that we will find solutions. The government has already committed funds to introduce free eye health checks for SuperGold Cardholders, as part of an annual health check. These checks will hopefully lead to earlier detection and treatment of eye disease, with more older people keeping more of their vision.”

However, it isn’t only seniors who are at risk of vision loss through undiagnosed eye conditions. We don’t know the scale of the problem in New Zealand, says Professor Dakin.

“That’s because New Zealand has no formal data on the prevalence or causation of vision loss. Whereas other countries like Australia have up-to-date representative data on eye health conditions. Right now, we can only use Australian data to extrapolate the scale of the eye health problem in New Zealand.”

The first step to addressing this, according to Professor Dakin, is to get New Zealand data on the prevalence and causes of vision impairment.

“Like Australia, New Zealand needs a national eye health survey. This is something I am determined to achieve in my role as Chair of Eye Health Aotearoa.”

Eye Health Aotearoa is a collaborative trust comprising representative organisations from the eye health sector including ophthalmology, optometry, vision rehabilitation and eye health consumer advocates. Their goal is to have equitable, quality eye health services to prevent avoidable vision loss, especially in high-risk communities. Eye health Aotearoa has a seven-point plan to improve New Zealanders' eye health.

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