An “emerg­ing eye health cri­sis”

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY RICHARD MA­HONEY News Staff

Lo­cal op­tometrists, and their pa­tients, are help­ing to ad­vance a na­tional move­ment aimed at deal­ing with an “emerg­ing cri­sis in eye health.”

At their Main Street, Alexan­dria prac­tice, Dr. Geneviève Raby and Dr. Josh Smith have been cir­cu­lat­ing a pe­ti­tion call­ing on the fed­eral govern­ment to create a na­tional frame­work for ac­tion to pro­mote vi­sion health and pre­vent vi­sion loss.

The re­sponse has been good, re­flect­ing the sup­port the cam­paign has re­ceived across the country, notes Dr. Smith, who is pres­i­dent of the On­tario As­so­ci­a­tion of Op­tometrists. On a na­tional level, more than 25,000 peo­ple have signed the pe­ti­tion, re­lates Lau­rèl Craib-Lau­rin, Se­nior Man­ager of Govern­ment and Stake­holder Re­la­tions with the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Op­tometrists, which ini­ti­ated the lob­by­ing ef­fort. The pe­ti­tion is be­ing spon­sored by Deputy Speaker Carole Hughes, MP for Al­goma-Man­i­toulin-Ka­puskas­ing, whose staff mem­bers say it is one of the most suc­cess­ful pe­ti­tion cam­paigns they have seen. To date, over 1,000 copies, with at least 25 in­di­vid­ual sig­na­tures, have been re­ceived.

The Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Op­tometrists (CAO) is also call­ing on the govern­ment to es­tab­lish a a na­tional pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign on the im­por­tance of vi­sion health.

“Cur­rently, noth­ing ex­ists at the fed­eral level to di­rectly pro­mote vi­sion and eye care to the pub­lic or to the var­i­ous min­istries and agen­cies re­spon­si­ble for eye health care across the country, both fed­eral and provin­cial,” notes Dr. Smith, who was a mem­ber of the Coun­cil of the CAO, rep­re­sent­ing On­tario, from Novem­ber 2014 to April 2018.

The num­ber of Cana­di­ans with vi­sion loss is ex­pected to dou­ble in the next 20 years, notes the pe­ti­tion.

“The emerg­ing cri­sis in eye health and vi­sion care af­fects all seg­ments of the Cana­dian pop­u­la­tion,” it con­tin­ues, with the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, such as chil­dren, seniors, di­a­bet­ics and in­dige­nous peo­ples, be­ing at par­tic­u­lar risk.

Just one per cent of the to­tal ex­pen­di­tures on vi­sion loss is in­vested in post-vi­sion loss of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ther­apy.

The CAO stresses that over 75 per cent of vi­sion loss is pre­ventable, but the num­ber of blind and vis­ually im­paired Cana­di­ans has in­creased 37 per cent in the last 10 years.

Vi­sion loss has the high­est di­rect health care cost of any other dis­ease. By 2032, vi­sion loss is ex­pected to cost Cana­di­ans $30.3 bil­lion. Mean­while, one in four school-aged chil­dren has a vi­sion prob­lem.

RICHARD MA­HONEY PHOTO

NA­TIONAL DRIVE: Dr. Josh Smith, pres­i­dent of the On­tario As­so­ci­a­tion of Op­tometrists, is help­ing fur­ther a push for a na­tional pro­gram to treat an “emerg­ing cri­sis.”

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