New testing targets Māori vision

Trials of a new acuity testing device have successfully increased health study participation rates among Māori.


Dr Jason Turuwhenua, from Auckland University’s Bioengineering Institute and Ngāi Tūhoe who developed the new device, said he was keen to increase the number of Māori receiving vision checks, so approached Kia Aroha College in Otara, South Auckland to help with research. “It was about testing the usability of the device, but it was also a chance to build a model of engagement for researchers working with Māori and Pacific communities. There’s very little data about the health of eyes in south Auckland.”

Together with Dr Joanna Black from the university’s School of Optometry and Vision Science, Dr Turuwhenua enlisted the help of Misty Edmonds, a registered nurse and senior lecturer at Manukau Institute of Technology, to conduct the trials. Edmonds has a long history of working with secondary schools across Counties Manukau and said participation rates would typically be around 20%. However, take up was over 60% of the 220 students approached, after the school promoted the opportunity to have a free vision check.

Unlike standard eye tests, Turuwhenua’s device measures optokinetic nystagmus (OKN), the involuntary and natural eye movement our eyes make when tracking a moving object. Patients don’t need to recognise letters of the alphabet, so the test can also be used for children too young to read.

As part of the trial, free glasses were prescribed and provided to any students who needed them, courtesy of the Essilor Vision Foundation.

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