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Poor children 'not getting basic eye care'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/10/2016

New research shows Kiwi children living in poverty are missing out on basic eye care, an Auckland optometrist says.

Renata Watene says screening by the Essilor Vision Foundation of pupils in low decile schools found as many as 30 per cent have an undiagnosed vision issue which may be affecting their learning.

She says that, with the one in three Maori and Pasifika children and one in seven Pakeha children living in poverty, more had to be done so the conditions did not become a further barrier to eduction.

"It's critical that all children in need are identified and given access to professional eye care," she said.

"If we can diagnose them from an early age, we can make a real difference to their future."

The charity is working with Massey University to determine the impact that correcting vision issues have on students' education.

Thursday is World Sight Day and foundation patron and Manurewa MP Louisa Wall said it was a good opportunity to spread the message about the importance of good vision.

In September 2015, the foundation, in partnership with volunteer local optometrists, began screening children at low decile school and so far 1200 have been seen.

The foundation provides glasses for those who need them and refers those requiring surgery to the public health system.

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