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Monday / April 15.
HomeminewsCanberra Open Eyes to Poor Night Vision Public Health Needs

Canberra Open Eyes to Poor Night Vision Public Health Needs

A vision awareness event at the Australian Parliament House has been described as an “undoubtedly great success” with 150 parliamentarians having their eyes examined, numerous referrals made, and conversations initiated about the need for accessible eye examinations and low vision support.

Hosted by Vision 2020 in collaboration with University of Canberra (UC) and Vision Australia, the aim of the event was to demonstrate the role of optometry in not only ocular health but also overall systemic health.

The full day of screening, delivered by UC clinical educators and Master of Optometry students, was complemented by a virtual reality experience run by Vision Australia, an innovation exhibition, a member-only symposium focussed on children’s vision, and a Parliamentary Friends Group for Eye Health and Vision Care cocktail function.

EYE SCREENING

UC’s Layal Naji worked with Vision 2020 to organise the eye screening as part of the university’s focus on community engagement and collaboration towards improving health outcomes.

“Our aim was to highlight the importance of eye care and current eye related services in maintaining the health of the Australian community,” Ms Naji explained.

UC clinical educators and Master of Optometry students conducted assessments that went beyond visual acuity and refractive error. Using optical coherence tomography, visual field, and wide-field imaging equipment provided by sponsors Opticare and Optimed, they measured intraocular pressures, and evaluated posterior eye health to identify any indications of ocular pathologies. Findings were discussed with each Member of Parliament (MP) and referrals prepared as appropriate.

“Several pathologies were detected that required urgent intervention, such as serous retinal detachments and glaucoma suspect cases,” Ms Naji said.

Victorian rural MP Rob Mitchell observed that the screening program was “an incredible opportunity to be able to walk into a comprehensive eye screening at my workplace”.

An electorate officer described the service as a “privilege” and admitted, “I haven’t had the chance to test my eyes in over five years”.

PUBLIC HEALTH ADVOCACY

UC educators and students also took the opportunity to remind parliamentarians about the role its Master of Optometry students play in delivering eye-related services through Canberra’s public health system.

A memorandum of understanding between UC and Canberra Health Services is helping to ease the Territory’s waitlist for public ophthalmology services.

Non-critical eye conditions are managed with student-led comprehensive eye examinations performed at the UC Eye Clinic. This enables efficient triaging, optimises resource allocation, and maintains accessibility to eye care for the community.

Multiple students spoke to Members of Parliament about their passion for providing eye care, explaining that accessibility to eye related services should be a top priority because the ability to see is a basic human right.

Rahul Sundarjee, President of the UC Optometry Society, said it was important to maintain “the attention of decision makers on eye health so improvements for accessibility and affordability can be maintained to support the remote and rural communities of Australia”.

UC Students also said delivering eye examinations to members of the community provided an opportunity to expand their practical experience, “so that upon graduation, we would have gained valuable exposure across a broader range of locations beyond the conventional testing room”.

SIMULATING EYE DISEASE

An interactive virtual reality display provided by Vision Australia enabled visitors to experience what it would be like to live with conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. This station highlighted the struggles faced by many and reinforced the need for regular eye examinations to ensure early disease detection and treatment to prevent progression.

One Australian Parliament House lawyer and advisor commented that the experience was particularly engaging as his mother had lived with age-related macular degeneration.

“It helped me appreciate what it was like for her living with this condition and the importance of monitoring my eye health,” he said.

Phil McCaroll, Vision Australia’s head of communications, said the display provided an opportunity to showcase the services available to support members of society with low vision.

“Having low vision doesn’t equate to a life of isolation; support exists to remain active in society,” he said.

Mona Al Sulaiman is a Master of Optometry student at the University of Canberra and student representative for the University of Canberra Optometry Society.