New Zealand’s eye care organisations’ umbrella group Eye Health Aotearoa* has launched an open letter petition addressed to the health minister Andrew Little, calling on the government to fund New Zealand’s first National Eye Health Survey (NEHS).
“New Zealand is long overdue to have its first national eye health survey,” said John Mulka, Eye Health Aotearoa trustee and chief executive of Blind Low Vision NZ. “Vision loss can have a devastating impact on people’s lives, not only for those experiencing vision loss, but those who love and care about them. Right now, we don’t even know the scale of the problem.”
The lack of data means New Zealand is falling behind other countries, like Australia, in combating preventable blindness, he said. “Australia successfully completed its first national eye health survey in 2016 and started planning for a follow up survey in 2019.”
The most important first step to correct the situation is to get representative and current New Zealand population-based data on the prevalence and causes of vision impairment, said Mulka. “A national survey will close the gap in the evidence base and provide up-to-date prevalence rates on blindness and low vision for Māori, Pacific and other New Zealanders.”
Thanks to a seeding grant, a 2021 NEHS pilot survey is currently being coordinated by the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Auckland. The team, including Associate Professor Jacqueline Ramke (principal investigator), Dr James McKelvie and Dr Joanne Black, will run a pilot survey to refine the recruitment strategy for the full survey.
The petition will be presented to the health minister at the earliest opportunity, said Mulka. “We are using the open letter petition as part of building a movement throughout Aotearoa to make eye health count. Eye Health Aotearoa wants eye health to be a health priority for this term of government.”
To sign the petition, go to: https://www.eyehealthaotearoa.org.nz/open_letter_minister_of_health