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 Second national eye health survey announced

A second National Eye Health Survey has been announced – this time with an added ear health component – and will examine close to 5,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Aboriginal Australians over two years.

The Centre for Vision Research at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) and partners including the University of New South Wales, The George Institute for Global Health, the Brien Holden Foundation and Macquarie University have been awarded the tender to conduct the nationwide survey, called the Australian Eye and Ear Health Survey.

It comes five years after the 2016 National Eye Health Survey, which was the first nationwide survey to determine the prevalence and major causes of vision impairment and blindness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians in city, regional and remote areas.

Prof Paul Mitchell.

The Australian Government Department of Health has sponsored the call to conduct a second national eye health survey in view of increased prevalence of diabetes since the 2016 survey and the critical eye complications that may follow.

Professor Paul Mitchell, director of WIMR’s Centre for Vision Research who will lead the study, said having a thorough and accurate understanding of the prevalence of eye disease and hearing loss in Australia is essential.

“It allows us to anticipate and plan prevention and treatment approaches that address the issues of vision and hearing loss now, and well into the future,” Mitchell said.

“Our study will use new, non-invasive imaging technologies to help improve eye disease detection rates. Importantly, it will assess a broad representation of people from across Australia. We will also look to assess potential links between eye disease/vision and hearing loss and critical health and/or social outcomes.”

Macquarie University has provided support to ensure ear health assessment occurs at the same time as collection of data on eye and general health measures in the survey.

Professor Bamini Gopinath, Cochlear Chair in Hearing and Health at Macquarie University Hearing, will lead the survey’s ear health component.

“We have a unique opportunity to expand the scope of the Second National Eye Health Survey to also establish prevalence, risk factors and impacts of hearing loss in Australia,” Gopinath said.

“This will not only help to determine the current state of hearing health in Australia, but it will provide vital information to the government to assist in its policy development, guiding future resource allocation and hearing health service delivery.”

The Australian Eye and Ear Health Survey will begin in the coming months starting in New South Wales and is expected to run for two years. Local doorknockers will invite residents living in the eligible communities to participate in the survey. 

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