DIT Optometry Students Mark World Sight Day 2009


8 October 2009

Optometry students from Dublin Institute of Technology are marking World Sight Day 2009, 8th October, by raising awareness of eye health issues, in particular avoidable blindness and visual impairment. The global focus of this year?s World Sight Day campaign is ?gender and eye health?.

According to Dr. James Loughman of DIT, ?It is a fact that 153 million people worldwide are blind or visually impaired due to uncorrected refractive errors - a simple sight test and glasses could restore sight to most of these people. It is also a fact that 90% of blind people live in low-income countries where, typically, men are twice as likely as women to have access to basic treatment. DIT is involved in a very important project to address eye health access and education in one such country ? Mozambique - and on World Sight Day our students will be helping to fund-raise for the project by selling t-shirts and collecting donations.?

The DIT ?Mozambique Eyecare Project?, part-funded by Irish Aid, aims to reduce the number of people suffering from avoidable blindness in Mozambique. One of nine partner countries for Irish Aid, Mozambique currently has only 12 ophthalmologists for a population of 21 million, and no optometrists or dispensing opticians. The Mozambique Eye Care Project, run by Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Optometry Department, the University of Ulster, International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE) and Universidade Lurio Mozambique, will establish the country?s first optometry course in at UniLurio. Academic staff and students from DIT will lend their expertise to the training of Mozambique?s first professional optometrists and optometry technicians. Over the five years of the project, almost half a million people will benefit from comprehensive eye examinations and the provision of glasses which until now are simply not available to them.

The Mozambique Eye-Care Project is the result of a proposal led by Professor Kovin Naidoo (ICEE), Prof. Jorge Ferrão (UniLurio), Dr. James Loughman (DIT) and Prof Roger Anderson (University of Ulster). In response to the proposal, Irish Aid (Ireland?s official aid programme) has awarded funding of €1.5 million to support the objective of providing sustainable solutions to community health and poverty, using Irish optometry expertise in Mozambique.

According to Dr. Loughman the severe shortage of optometry professionals in Mozambique means a lack of the most basic eye care for the visually impaired. ?Very few people undergo eye examinations and when they do there is often no way to make up (glaze) their glasses.

?This project is based in the Nampula province in Northern Mozambique which has a population of 4.1 million and only one ophthalmologist. Typically, the ophthalmologist examines 150 patients a day, working in very difficult conditions in the Central Hospital, Nampula. To put this in context, in Ireland, with a similar population, there are 860 registered optometrists and over 200 registered ophthalmologists. On average an optometrist in Ireland will see some 14 patients per day.?

Work has already begun on the ?Mozambique Eyecare Project? with15 students enrolled on the first optometry course which started in February of this year.

Over the course of the five year programme, a number of DIT and University of Ulster Lecturers will participate in the delivery of the programme, and it is envisaged that a number of eyecare professionals in Ireland will also play a part in the successful implementation of the project. Responding to questions about whether members of the public can get involved, Dr. Loughman says ?The answer is a definite yes! Anyone can help by raising funds, raising the profile of the project in Ireland and beyond, by travelling to Mozambique to assist in the training of optometrists and in many other ways. Of course, we would also appreciate donations of good quality equipment to be used in the training of Optometrists in Mozambique.?

World Sight Day World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. The aim is to raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment as major international public health issues. An estimated 314 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness.

DIT students of optometry receive their training in the state-of-the-art National Optometry Centre on the Kevin Street campus. Members of the public are invited to have their eyes tested free of charge at the student clinics, where assessments are carried out under the supervision of a qualified practitioner using the latest high-tech equipment. For details see www.dit.ie/eyeclinic.

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