Appeal to New Zealanders – Support Overseas Eye Care Work, but Don’t Forget your Own Eyes
New Zealand’s medical eye specialists have appealed for support for organisations involved in eye care work in
On the eve of World Sight Day 2004 (Thursday, 14 October), The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of
Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) reminded New Zealanders of disturbing blindness rates in countries such as the Western Pacific
and South East Asia.
“In these countries, losing sight or being born with vision impairment can have an enormous impact on lifestyle,
education and employment opportunities. It can also mean decreased life expectancy,” said the Chair of RANZCO's New
Zealand Branch, Dr Rod Keillor, of Dunedin. Dr Keillor said a number of New Zealand non-government organisations were
assisting the global effort to eliminate avoidable blindness, including Voluntary Ophthalmic Services Overseas, a
combined effort of optometrists and ophthalmologists.
More than 100 New Zealand and Australian ophthalmologists regularly work in aid projects in neighbouring countries,
sometimes seeing hundreds of patients and performing numerous procedures, such as cataract removal. As with many other
health professionals providing such voluntary assistance, these visits often are self-funded.
Dr Keillor said that, while the focus of this year’s World Sight Day was on eye care work in developing countries, New
Zealanders, themselves, need to be vigilant in looking after their own eyesight.
“If you are aged over 50 years regular eye tests at least every three years may help prevent avoidable blindness or
vision impairment,” said Dr Keillor.
For those in high risk groups, tests should be more regular. Diabetics should be having regular eye tests at least every
18-24 months. Other people at particular risk are those with a family history of eye diseases such as Glaucoma or
age-related Macular Degeneration and those who are severely short-sighted, said Dr Keillor.
13 October 2004
For further information and/or interviews contact Rod Keillor on 0274 365556
SOURCE: Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists