In Australia, 453,000 people are blind or vision impaired. Avoidable eye conditions are increasing, with diabetic retinopathy the leading cause of blindness amongst working age Australians. Diabetes is also the fastest growing cause of vision loss in the adult Aboriginal population.
It is well documented that an individual’s quality of life and participation in daily activities such as education and employment can be improved through having good vision. Given that vulnerable populations have high rates of vision loss and chronic disease, often requiring long-term management, the need for community education is not just significant, it is imperative. To address this need, Sight For All appointed their first Eye Health Educator, Jo Croft, in August 2020.
Sight For All is an Adelaide-based non-government organisation, established in 2009 by three South Australian ophthalmologists. The non-profit’s mandate is to deliver eye health care projects free of charge to partner countries and communities, with the ultimate aim of reducing all forms of vision impairment and blindness.
To achieve this, Sight For All works within four key strategies in the fight against blindness:
• Collaborative Research
• Sustainable Education
• Infrastructure Support
• Eye Health Awareness
The Sight For All Eye Health Educator delivers information sessions about conditions that affect our eyes and vision, including refractive error, cataract, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease and glaucoma. The presentations strongly encourage and motivate attendees to have regular eye examinations with their eye health professional, together with improving their understanding of the risk factors associated with different types of eye disease. Attendees are given the opportunity to ask questions and take with them a selection of informative brochures.
The current government directives regarding COVID-19 restrictions in South Australia have allowed for face-to-face meetings with appropriate social distancing measures in place. This has enabled Jo to meet in-person with community groups such as Men’s Shed groups, Probus, Rotary Clubs, and Community Centres.
Outside her role with Sight For All, Jo consults as an optometrist in private practice. As Sight For All’s Eye Health Educator, Jo is excited to take patient education outside the consulting room.
Jo is pictured delivering an education session within the workshop of a Men’s Shed group. While they stopped for morning tea, the attendees learnt about keeping their eyes healthy, together with practical advice on eye protection whilst in the workshop and at home.