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HomeminewsFunding for Rural Optometry Applauded

Funding for Rural Optometry Applauded

The International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE) has applauded the announcement of an increase in aid funding and the new and expanded services to 106 rural and remote Indigenous communities under a AUD$6.5 million boost for optometry provision.

The announced funding by the Minister for Indigenous Health, Mr. Warren Snowdon, was lauded by ICEE Chief Executive Officer, Professor Brien Holden.

“This initiative, under the Visiting Optometrists Scheme, covers costs for optometric services to many remote Indigenous communities across Australia,” says Professor Holden.

“It reinforces the importance of optometry to every community. Without basic eye examinations, blindness and vision impairment is often left undetected, in many cases until it is too late, when lives have been dramatically affected. Only by expanding services can we hope to make an impact on eye health and vision care for Indigenous people.

“At ICEE we see the long term benefit of eye care education in local communities. We know that by building local capacity by training local health care workers to provide eye care services the result is a community with better education and employment possibilities and ultimately, less poverty.”

Prof. Holden also expressed his gratitude for expansion of overseas aid funding announced in the latest budget.

“It’s been a remarkable week for poverty alleviation initiatives. We welcomed the announcement in the budget of an increase in overseas development assistance particularly supporting the funding of higher education through the provision of scholarships.”

A winner of the Schwab Social Entrepreneur for Africa 2010 award, Prof. Holden paid tribute to the increase in support.

“The substantial increase of support to Africa, and the expanding focus to include Latin America and the Caribbean in the provision of assistance is a step forward for Australian aid agencies and another initiative of which we can all be proud,” he said.

“It is deeply saddening that 100 million people in developing countries have reportedly been thrust back into extreme poverty as a result of the global financial crisis. That knowledge alone gives us a moral imperative to increase spending on aid. But it’s equally important that all of those living in poverty feel the benefit of this commitment. With this kind of funding, in the years to 2016, we can be confident that we are not just addressing the tragic result of the economic downturn but addressing the greater issue of poverty alleviation.”

Footnote: mivision looks at the problems facing rural optometry starting on page 22 of this issue.

Overcoming Eye Care Barriers in Ghana

A new eye care facility was launched in the Ghanaian city of Kumasi in June – the Ashanti Vision Centre – a clinic that will provide services in refractive errors, low vision and blindness prevention.

Ghana currently has 107 optometrists serving a population of over 22 million people. In stark contrast, Australia, with a similar sized population, has more than 4,300 registered optometrists.

The launch was the result of a collaborative project between the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE) and the Department of Optometry and Visual Science of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the Ghana Health Services and the nearby community of Ayeduase.

According to Professor Aboagye Menyeh Provost of the College of Science of the University; “The Centre provides access to affordable spectacles with the creation of an optical dispensing unit. It will also serve as a training centre for optometrists to build their capacity to undertake outreach programs to reduce the incidence of vision impairment.”

Professor Menyeh expressed concern about the upsurge of eye diseases such as cataract, trachoma, glaucoma, river blindness and low vision, especially in developing countries.

Present at the launch was Professor Kovin Naidoo, Global Programmes Director of ICEE, who pointed out that at least 670 million people, mostly in the developing world, are blind or vision impaired simply because they don’t have access to a basic eye examination and a pair of glasses. Of those, at least 153 million suffer from treatable blindness or vision impairment at distance and a further 517 million due to near sightedness.

Since 1998, in more than 40 countries, ICEE has been developing and implementing sustainable solutions for improved eye care access by investing in local eye care education, appropriate service delivery systems and research in underserved communities.