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World Sight Day: Love Your Eyes campaign

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

With an estimated 180,000 New Zealanders living with severe to moderate functional vision loss, New Zealanders are being called to join the #LoveYourEyes pledge, a global challenge aiming for 1 million tests to be completed by World Sight Day on 14 October.

Launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), #LoveYourEyes asks participants to make a commitment to their eye health through the simple act of having an eye test. In New Zealand, where the number of those with severe to moderate functional vision loss is predicted to reach 220,000 by 2028, commitment to public eye health is critical.

Up to 20 percent of patients are living with preventable blindness, including those with glaucoma. Approximately 68,000 New Zealanders over the age of 40 have glaucoma, but half of those are unaware they even have the disease.

There are four pledges people can make via the Eye Heath Aotearoa website, including ‘prevent sight loss’, ‘preserve my sight’, ‘protect my eyes’ and ‘prioritise my eyes’. While the challenge is to reach one million eye tests - including all vision tests and eye health tests - it’s hoped people will also recognise how they can care for their eyes, for example, using correct safety equipment or having regular eye health check-ups.

Those who cannot complete their pledge by 14 October due to lockdown restrictions are asked to undertake their pledge when they are able, or it is appropriate.

John Mulka, Interim Chair of Eye Health Aotearoa (EHA) and Chief Executive of Blind Low Vision NZ, is excited by this international call to action and encourages New Zealanders to see the benefit it can have for our country’s eye health. "Every day, an average of six New Zealanders turn to Blind Low Vision NZ for support with sight loss. One-third of those have macular disease and in an aging population, we anticipate seeing more people with age-related sight loss. "We are calling on all New Zealanders to #LoveYourEyes so no-one experiences unnecessary or preventable sight loss, and everyone can achieve their full potential."

An important focus for #LoveYourEyes is equality and inclusion, and in New Zealand, it’s hoped Māori and Pacific Island populations, as well as lower-income and elderly, will heed the call to have an eye test as they experience a prevalence of associated sight-threatening diseases such as diabetes.

An estimated 160,000 New Zealanders are living with Type 2 diabetes, and they will most likely benefit from routine eye screening, tight glycemic control and follow-up to significantly improve diabetes-related vision care.

To help in getting tests to those who need them, eye health professionals are encouraged to pledge their support by offering free eye tests in the spirit of #LoveYourEyes.

Employers are also encouraged to participate, by pledging to get their employees tested so they can work to their full potential.

To celebrate New Zealand’s participation in #LoveYourEyes and mark World Sight Day on October 14, a special event will be held at the Land’s End Boutique Hotel in Bluff. It will be the first event in the world streamed by the IAPB and WHO, and also be the southernmost eye-testing site in the world. All those in attendance will have a chance to have their eyes tested, including dignitaries; members and volunteers of trust organisations such as Blind Low Vision NZ, Macular Degeneration New Zealand, Eye Health Aotearoa; eye health professionals, and members of New Zealand’s blind and low vision community.

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