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(L-R) Director Community, OneSight Foundation, Robyn Weinberg; Vision 2020 Australia CEO, Jennifer Gersbeck; Alan Tudge MP; and CERA optometrist Pei Ying Lee 
Photo: Les O’Rourke, Vision 2020 Australia

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By Helen Carter

 

Australia’s inaugural National Eye Health Survey will be the first research of its kind to map the prevalence of major eye conditions in Indigenous and non-Indigenous people nationwide.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Member for Aston, Alan Tudge, launched the survey in Melbourne at Knox City OPSM on 12 June.

The comprehensive research project undertaken by Vision 2020 Australia and the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) is a collaborative effort between government, non-government and the private sectors.

Principal investigator, Dr Mohamed Dirani from CERA, said in a media release that the project would be completed mid-2016 with the eye health of non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians being tested across 30 sites, including urban, regional and remote parts of the country.

‘Health interventions and future programs are being planned and implemented based on 20-year-old data,’ he stated. ‘The National Eye Health Survey will give us an up to date, evidenced-based picture of the prevalence and causes of vision impairment in Australia.’

It will also provide invaluable follow-up data for the 2008 National Indigenous Eye Health Survey as effects of interventions since then can be assessed and eye health strategies for Indigenous communities better guided.

The survey is also critical in helping Australia meet its international obligations to the WHO’s Global Action Plan (GAP), of which the target is to reduce avoidable blindness by 25 per cent by 2019. To achieve this, the Health Minister last year endorsed a National Framework Implementation Plan on eye health and vision care, prioritising improvement of the evidence base.

Vision 2020 Australia CEO, Jennifer Gersbeck, said the survey would help establish a baseline for tracking Australia’s progress against the GAP and would provide an essential evidence base for the framework plan.

The survey is supported by funding from the Australian Government. Other contributions are from Optometry Australia, which has provided support including expert advice on the steering committee, CERA, OPSM, Novartis, Zeiss, the Brien Holden Vision Institute, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

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