Improving eye health of blind and vision impaired people
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers Amanda Rishworth, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing Shayne Neumann, and Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Senator Matt Thistlethwaite today met with key stakeholders in the eye health sector to discuss how the Rudd Government is improving the lives of blind and vision impaired people in Australia and the region.
Ms Rishworth, Mr Neumann and Senator Thistlethwaite took part in the Vision 2020 Summit Panel Discussion on Health, Disability and International Development at the University of New South Wales.
Vision 2020 Australia is part of VISION 2020: the Right to Sight, a global initiative of the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
Mr Neumann said all governments are working together to eliminate avoidable blindness and vision loss under a national framework aligned with the goals of the World Health Organization.
“Vision problems are often age-related – and as Baby boomers age, they may face cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration,” Mr Neumann said.
“However, blindness and vision loss is often preventable or treatable. Regular eye tests are an important step in protecting your sight.
“The Australian Government has increased its overall investment in eye health research through National Health and Medical Research Council from $12.7 million in 2007 to $16.9 million in 2012.
“We committed about $66 million over the next four years under this year’s federal Budget to improve eye and ear health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Of this, $16 million will continue the trachoma-control activities that are significantly decreasing this disease in this country.
“The Australian Government has also provided significant funding for additional cataract surgeries and to improve the eye patient pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes and other eye patients.”
Senator Thistlethwaite said high numbers of people with vision impairment and blindness live in the Asia-Pacific region, with the majority living in low and middle income countries.
“The Australian Government is committed to helping countries in the Asia-Pacific region tackle avoidable blindness and improve the quality of life for people with low vision and blindness,” Senator Thistlethwaite said.
“Since 2008, the Government has committed more than $125 million for avoidable blindness through Australia’s aid program to improve the lives of some of the poorest people in the region.”
Ms Rishworth said the Australian Government remains committed to improving the lives of people with disability, including those with low vision.
“The National Disability Strategy, developed in partnership with state, territory and local governments and in consultation with people with disability, adopts a bold vision for an inclusive Australian society that enables people with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens,”
Ms Rishworth said.
“One of the key focuses of the Strategy is to ensure that people with disability attain the highest possible health and wellbeing outcomes.
“The Strategy sets a ten-year national plan to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation, and create a more inclusive society.
“This change is important to ensuring that people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians – a quality education, good health, economic security, a job where possible, and access to buildings and transport, and strong social networks and supports.
“And under DisabilityCare Australia, Australians with significant and permanent disability will for the first time have the power to choose the support they need and how that support is provided.
“The first four weeks of DisabilityCare Australia across all four launch sites has been a success, with hundreds of people having their first contact with our regional offices.
“DisabilityCare Australia staff members are already assisting people to develop their individual plans, answering general enquiries and providing information to the local community.
“For participants with significant and permanent vision impairment this might include assistance animals, communication supports, braille readers or other personal assistive technologies, as well as information or training to use a device or to navigate and move around safely.”