Improving eye health in rural areas

10 October 2013

Today, 10 October, is World Sight Day. This year’s theme is Universal Eye Health with the call to action: Get your eyes tested! The Alliance would like to see its way to ensuring that eye health for people in rural and remote areas is as well-protected as for those anywhere.

Vision 2020 Australia, representing over 50 member organisations, is raising awareness of avoidable deterioration of vision in Australia, where 75 per cent of blindness is preventable. Getting an eye test could save your sight.

After turning 40 the possibility of developing impaired vision or blindness increases with each decade, largely because of macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts or diabetic retinopathy. Often there are no symptoms until it is too late – hence the importance of having a test.

The key is early detection. But in rural and remote areas of Australia a test is not so simple. While most rural towns of 6,000 or more have a local optometrist who can provide necessary non-surgical services and treatment, there are many in remote areas without the means to get their eyesight tested.

A high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live outside the capital cities and those in more remote areas are at particular risk. In those areas they suffer six times the rate of avoidable blindness and vision loss as other Australians and are more likely to have eye sight risk factors such as Diabetes type 2.

The 2013 Charity of the Year, the Fred Hollows Foundation, works in Australia to improve the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It collaborates with governments, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and other NGOs, such as Vision 2020 Australia and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to gain access to eye health tests and necessary surgery.

To find more facts about eye health and World Sight Day visit For more information about rural eye health, including the NRHA's Fact Sheet on Eye and Vision Health in Rural Australia, visit To find out more about or to support the Fred Hollows Foundation visit

Media Enquiries: 

Lesley Barclay - NRHA Chair: 0412 282 801

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