New Zealand is missing key data on eye health, report shows
17 February 2021
New Zealand needs more investment in eye health, a global report from The Lancet Global Health shows.
One of the report’s recommendations is for countries to collect data on eye health from national surveys to inform planning. New Zealand is among the minority of countries with no such assessment.
The University of Auckland’s Jacqui Ramke, an associate professor in the School of Optometry and Vision Science, was one of 73 experts from 25 countries who contributed to the report, The Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health.
"For now, we can only look at data from other countries to estimate the state of eye health in New Zealand,” says Dr Ramke. "For example, a recent national survey in Australia showed that Indigenous Australians have far worse access to eye care than non-Indigenous Australians – and the same could be true here for Māori and Pacific people, but we just don’t have the data we need to plan equitable eye services.”
The report from the Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, says almost everyone will experience impaired vision or an eye condition during their lifetime – even if just the need for reading glasses. Also:
- Cost-effective medical interventions such as cataract surgery and spectacles can dramatically cut the productivity lost globally from eye problems
- 90 percent of people living with blindness or vision impairment are in low- or middle-income countries, but in all countries, there is inequality in terms of population groups able to readily access eye care
- Eye health should be reframed as a “development issue,” essential for unlocking potential within countries to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
Noting that over 90 percent of vision loss could be prevented or treated with existing, highly cost-effective interventions, the report provides recommendations for countries to enable everyone’s right to eye health.
Paul Panckhurst | media adviser
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