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On 27 July, Eye Health Aotearoa (EHA) took their campaign for the importance of eye health to Parliament House. We invited MPs and Parliamentary staff to have an OCT scan of their eyes, before launching the new “Eye Care in Aotearoa New Zealand 2022 – Eye Care Situation Analysis Tool (ESCAT)” report.
EHA’s partial eye check is the first of many taking place in parliaments and assemblies bodies around the world as part of IAPB’s Love Your Eyes campaign. The Love Your Eyes campaign encourages individuals to take care of their own eye health whilst bringing attention to over a billion people worldwide who have vision loss and do not have access to the eye care services they need.
New Zealand is leading the world with other screenings being planned globally including at the United Nations in New York, the UK Parliament in London, the Nepal parliament in Kathmandu, and the Australian Parliament in Canberra.
Peter Holland, CEO of IAPB said “Congratulations to colleagues in New Zealand for hosting the first event in the run up to this year’s World Sight Day. It’s so important that decision makers around the world understand the importance of eye health, and what better way than to give them a sight screening.”
The EHA Trust is gifting the “Eye Care in Aotearoa New Zealand 2022 – Eye Care Situation Analysis Tool (ESCAT)” report to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand. The report was prepared by The School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Auckland, who coordinated a Technical Working Group to provide a high-level assessment of the eye health and vision care system.
The ECSAT is a tool developed by the World Health Organization. It provides a “snapshot” of the eye care sector at that time and is designed to address the following key questions:
“We hope that by bringing our campaign to the People’s House, we can show MPs the importance of looking after the nation’s vision and reiterate just how desperate the situation is. Eye health and vision care needs to be a public health priority” says EHA spokesperson, Dr Justin Mora.
Drew Keys, Regional Program Manager (Western Pacific) International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) spoke at the 27 July 2022 report launch about how Aotearoa New Zealand’s ECSAT report fits into global policy trends. “IAPB congratulates the authors and EHA on this important piece of work. The ECSAT is a foundation of the 2030 In Sight global strategy to see that nobody experiences avoidable sight loss by the end of the decade. As one of the very first developed health economies to conduct an ECSAT, this report well-positions New Zealand to undertake the eye health journey.”
The ECSAT report also provides baseline information for tracking capacity and performance of the eye care sector. The findings show that New Zealand is doing well in some areas but there are a number of areas that need strengthening.
“Thousands of Kiwis lose their sight unnecessarily every year, but we really have no idea of the scale of the problem because there is no data on the state of the population’s eye health.” warns Mora.
For a number of years, EHA and others from New Zealand’s eye health sector industry leaders have been campaigning for a National Eye Health Survey, so that the state of the country’s eye health can be properly understood and steps can be taken to prevent avoidable blindness and vision loss. New Zealand is being left behind by the rest of the world with regards to eye health, and more and more Kiwis are losing their sight unnecessarily because of inequity of access to essential eye health and vision care services.
The Lancet Global Health Journal “Lessons from 2020 for equity in global eye health“ report authors found that, “Although Aotearoa set an outstanding example of the management of COVID-19, the country still experiences eye health inequities. Indigenous people, including Māori and Pasifika, have higher rates of uncorrected refractive error, keratoconus, untreated cataract, and diabetic retinopathy.”
EHA believe the Government is yet to fully recognize the current inequity for New Zealanders in accessing quality and timely eye health and vision care services, to prevent avoidable blindness. They hope that this event will be the start of a policy conversation around next steps to develop integrated people-centred eye care in New Zealand.
Photo credits: Zoe Porter
 Copied verbatim from “Lessons from 2020 for equity in global eye health”. Harwood, Matire and Cunningham, William. Published 26 February 2021. The Lancet Global Health Journal. Volume 9, Issue 4, April 01 2021. Read online at https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(21)00036-X/fulltext