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The Australian Government has given a major funding boost to a nationwide survey mapping the prevalence of eye conditions in Australia.

The National Eye Health Survey (NEHS), which will be overseen by Vision 2020 Australia, aims to provide an accurate, evidence-based picture of Australia’s eye health.

Minister for Health Peter Dutton announced that $1.126 million would be allocated to the project.

A Vision 2020 Australia spokesperson said the organisation led advocacy – in collaboration with members and supporters from the private sector – to secure financial commitment from the Australian Government to undertake the NEHS.

The Australian Government, through the Department of Health, has contracted Vision 2020 Australia to conduct the NEHS. Vision 2020 Australia has sub-contracted CERA to undertake the project.

Optometry Australia is collaborating with the profession to bring the national eye health survey to fruition. It will work alongside CERA, the Brien Holden Vision Institute and Luxottica, as well as other private sector contributors.

National CEO Genevieve Quilty says the survey will be conducted across 50 sites nationwide.

‘We are facilitating and actively working with the profession to complete the clinical component of this survey,’ Ms Quilty said.  ‘Our members will be asked to be involved voluntarily in a clinical capacity where the need arises.’

CERA managing director Professor Jonathan Crowston says the survey will give clear evidence of what eye-health issues there are, the extent of the problems and where their efforts need to be directed.

‘Importantly, having hard evidence means we can direct front-line eye health services to where we need them most,’ Professor Crowston said. ‘The collection of data on blinding conditions such as trachoma has enabled us to reduce its prevalence in remote indigenous communities from 14 to four per cent over the past eight years.’

The growing diabetes epidemic is also expected to dramatically impact Australian eye health.

It is estimated that almost 85 per cent of all vision impairment will be among those aged 50 years and over.

CEO of Vision 2020, Jennifer Gersbeck says Australians’ eye health is at risk as the population ages.

‘We know that as Australia’s population ages we will see an increase in the number of people with age-related eye diseases and conditions, and being armed with accurate data will help us tackle these conditions efficiently and effectively,’ Ms Gersbeck said.

The government funding for the National Eye Health Survey will be combined with $1 million that has been raised through contributions from the non-government sector.

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