Auckland University researchers have conducted a pilot eye health survey and community eye exams in east-central Auckland, uncovering significant unmet need and serious eye disorders, including retinal tears and severe cataracts.
The survey of adult residents of Glen Innes, Panmure and Ōrākei started in mid-July 2021 as a precursor project for a planned larger study by the School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS) which is still to obtain funding.
“Aotearoa has never had a population-based survey, so there is a dearth of information on which to plan for equitable eye health services,” said study lead, Associate Professor Jacqueline Ramke. “By relying on information from service users alone, the people who are unable to access services remain invisible. But by undertaking a population-based survey we can engage with everyone.” Recruiting people by going door-to-door, the SOVS research team was also particularly keen to learn the most effective ways to recruit typically underserved communities, including Māori and Pasifika, A/Prof Ramke said.
As a part of the survey, the team, including SOVS’ teaching fellows Jaymie Rogers and Veeran Morar, offered full eye examinations to everyone identified with distance or near vision impairment at a pop-up clinic at a Glen Innes community centre. Final year BOptom students helped with the screenings, said A/Prof Ramke, adding students benefited enormously from meeting and providing care for community members who have typically never had an eye test before.
Dr Jacqui Ramke
“It has been fantastic to be part of a really committed group of people working extremely hard to ensure this project is a success,” she said. “The team has been overwhelmed by the positive response from the community and by the substantial unmet need for eye health services in Tāmaki Makaurau.”
The team should find out about funding for the larger survey later in the year.