| November 17, 2016

Shepparton residents encouraged to test eyesight

The Assistant Minister for Rural Health, Dr David Gillespie, has joined with the Member for Murray, Mr Damian Drum, in Shepparton this morning to learn more about a local initiative promoting good eye health.


“It’s great to see local optometrists taking the lead on community health initiatives, where a simple eye test can identify problems early and help to save someone’s sight,” Minister Gillespie said.


“Graham Hill Eyecare in Shepparton is using optical illusions to encourage people aged 50 and older to get their eyes tested for early signs of eye disease, including aged-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.


“Initiatives like this one in Shepparton build on the recent findings of the Australian Government’s National Eye Health Survey, which found that 90 per cent of vision impairment and blindness in Australia can be prevented through appropriate and cost-effective prevention and treatment strategies.”


Dr Gillespie said the Australian Government is committed to improving the eye health of Australians and preventing avoidable blindness and loss of vision – particularly in older Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


“We’re doing this through investment in front-line programs and services, and through ongoing research into eye disease,” Minister Gillespie said.


Member for Murray, Damian Drum welcomed this initiative, especially as Graham Hill Eyecare is only one of four trial participants in Australia.


“It is great to see such important work on eyecare occurring in rural and regional areas,” Mr Drum said.


Mr Gillespie said through our Rural Health Outreach Fund we assist health professionals to provide outreach services for people living in regional, rural and remote Australia by helping with costs of travel, meals, accommodation, equipment hire and facilities.


“Through this program, we are providing $1.8 million this financial year for eye health services to more than 130 locations across the country.


“We’ve also allocated $25 million over four years to our Visiting Optometrist Scheme, which helps improve access to optometry services for Australians living in rural and remote communities. Last financial year alone, around 40,000 services were provided in over 500 locations around the country.


“Research into eye disease is also a priority – since 2010, the Australian Government has awarded more than $148 million for research through the National Health and Medical Research Council.


“We’re also proud to fund Vision 2020 Australia and the Macular Disease Foundation – two peak bodies in the eye health sector – to educate and raise public awareness of the importance of eye health.


“I congratulate Graham Hill Eyecare, the Macular Disease Foundation and Bayer Australia for their shared interest in this initiative, and for promoting good eye health for people in regional communities.” 

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