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JulEYE is about saving sight now and into the future

MEDIA RELEASE

Imagine missing the big moments in your life. Get your eyes tested this JulEYE!

Over 1600 children in Australia are diagnosed with significant vision impairment each year, compared to 600 with cancer. Whilst research has found cures for 90 per cent of those with cancer, visually impaired children live their entire lives with poor eyesight.* It is only through research and awareness that these statistics can change, according to The RANZCO Eye Foundation.

Despite one third of all Australians fearing blindness as much as cancer, vision loss continues to be a major and often overlooked health problem in this country. This year, 25 per cent of Australians remain at risk of losing part or all of their vision to eye disease because they have not undergone a  simple eye check by a health professional.

The RANZCO (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists) Eye Foundation, a national not-for-profit organisation, annually dedicates the month of July to its community awareness campaign JulEYE’, which encourages all Australians to focus on looking after their eyes.

With Australia sitting behind the rest of the world when it comes to systems to appropriately manage and support rare diseases, the JulEYE campaign is asking Australians to make a donation to help fund critical research into sustainable vision research programs that will give not just our children, but all Australians the best chance to see the big moments in their life. 

Contrary to misinformed beliefs, eye disease is not just an affliction of the elderly, vision loss can happen in babies, children, teenagers and adults alike. Sydney-based Ophthalmologist and Vice Chairman of The RANZCO Eye Foundation, Professor Frank Martin AM is urging all Australians, parents in particular, to have their family’s eyes tested as soon as possible as early diagnosis is the key to minimising the functional impact of eye disease–“the first eight years of a child’s life are critical for eye development, so if problems are not picked up during this time, damage  and vision loss can be permanent.”

75 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable if caught early, yet two out of five Australians are still not having their eyes tested  at least once every two years**. Findings from a  Newspoll undertaken for JulEYE last year revealed that nearly half of all Australians have not had their eyes tested in the past 12 months because 30 per cent don’t think there’s anything wrong with their eyes; ten per cent haven’t had the time; four per cent don’t think it’s a health priority and another four per cent feel they aren’t old enough to worry.

Regular eye checks are just as important as regular visits to your dentist or GP – “have your eyes tested this JulEYE. It’s as simple as making an appointment and as serious as saving your eyesight,” says CEO of The RANZCO Eye Foundation, Jacinta Spurrett.

Now in its eighth year, the JulEYE campaign is proudly supported by INXS band member and long-standing JulEYE Ambassador Kirk Pengilly; former  Dean of law at The University of Sydney and 2011 Senior Australian of the Year, Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum AO; and one  of Australia’s highest-selling independent musical artists and motivational speakers, Lorin Nicholson. Together they hope to raise greater awareness of the importance of eye health and encourage Australians to discuss their family’s eye health history to find out if eye disease is in their genetics.

Kirk Pengilly is passionate about JulEYE, having nearly lost his sight to glaucoma in his 20s: “The thing about eye disease is you can have it and not know you’ve got it until it’s too late. Even if you haven’t noticed changes to your vision, you should still have an eye check, and if necessary see an Ophthalmologist this JulEYE.”  

As for the important work being undertaken by The RANZCO Eye Foundation, CEO Jacinta Spurrett explains, “The Foundation is currently funding numerous vision research projects and sustainable patient service programs in Australia and across the Asia Pacific. We are also committed to improving Aboriginal eye health by working with local communities and Indigenous organisations across the  Kimberley/Pilbara regions to provide screening, treatment and education. The importance of awareness campaigns such as JulEYE should not be undervalued as they too play a part in saving sight through education and action. In doing all of this incredibly important work, we hope to ultimately eradicate eye disease.” 

The main eye diseases that cause vision loss are glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts. Regular eye tests are the most effective way of picking up on changes and identifying problems early. Through research we can find a cure.

Once vision is lost it cannot be restored.

To find out where you can be tested, or to donate to The RANZCO Eye Foundation and to support eye health research and sustainable development projects, visit The RANZCO Eye Foundations's website.

Your donation could change help change the way Australians see their future. Join the conversation on The RANZCO Foundations's Facebook page

ENDS

Key messages for JulEYE

  • The RANZCO Eye Foundation recommends that you have your eyes checked every two years. 
  • A regular check-up could help maintain eye health and detect any signs of eye disease early to allow for the best chance of treatment given that 75per cent of all cases of vision loss in Australia are preventable or treatable. 
  • The JulEYE campaign is supported by Allergan and Reckitt Benkiser. 

* Calculated from vision support websites and population estimates 

** Commissioned by The RANZCO Eye Foundation and conducted online in May 2014 among n=1232 adults aged 18-64 nationally
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