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First ‘National Eye Health Survey’ gets funding in Australia

Published: 31.07.2014

Australia is one step closer to eliminating blindness and vision impairment following a Federal Government funding announcement for a major survey that will map the prevalence of eye conditions nationally.

In what is a first for Australia, a National Eye Health Survey has been given a $1.126 million funding injection by the Minister for Health which will mean the survey will now become a reality.

CEO of Vision 2020 Australia, Jennifer Gersbeck, said the national survey which would be conducted by the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) had been needed for a long time and would provide an accurate, evidenced-based picture of nationwide eye health.
“This is a huge boost for Australia’s eye health and will give us the evidence we need to tackle blindness and vision impairment more effectively,” Ms Gersbeck said (Read her blog post here).

Ms Gersbeck said Australians’ eye health was at-risk as the population aged. It is estimated that almost 85 per cent of all vision impairment will be among those aged 50 years and over and that the growing diabetes epidemic is also expected to dramatically impact Australian eye health. “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.

Managing Director, CERA, Professor Jonathan Crowston said: “At the moment we use decade-old data. There is a clear need for an evidenced-based picture of eye health in Australia.” “The survey will give us clear evidence of what the eye health issues are, the extent of the problem and where our efforts need to be directed. Importantly, having hard evidence means we can direct frontline eye health services to where we need them most,” Mr 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 4 per cent over the past eight years.”  The new funding from the Federal Government in conjunction with the nearly $1 million already raised through cash and in-kind contributions from the non-government and private sectors will enable the survey to get underway in the coming months.