14 October 2011 Return to news listings
Optometrists have an “absolutely vital” role to play in improving public health in Wales, stated Lesley Griffiths, Health and Social Care Minister for Wales on Wednesday 12 October in the Assembly.
Ms Griffiths, who spent a decade working in ophthalmology, emphasised the ability of optometrists to spot early warning signs of diseases in other parts of the body and optometrists’ role in health promotion.
The Minister was speaking during a debate of the Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report. The report highlighted four major public health risks across Wales, all of which have an impact on eye health: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.
Both smoking and heavy drinking increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a condition which affects the blood vessels in the eye and is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. A healthy diet promotes good eye health, whereas a poor diet, combined with physical inactivity, can increase the risk of obesity and diabetic retinopathy, the biggest cause of blindness amongst working age people.
Healthier eyes improve public health. Over 2 million people in the UK suffer from sight loss, over half of which could be prevented. People from poorer communities and those from certain ethnic groups are much more likely to lose their sight. Older people, who lose their sight, are far more likely to fall and face greater problems with independence and isolation.
The College of Optometrists is working with organisations from across eye care to develop a strategy to improve eye health. The strategy aims to increase the number of ophthalmic public health experts, increase the evidence base for how to improve the eye health of the population and to build better relationships between eye care and public health communities.
Mike George, the Chair of Optometry Wales, welcomed Ms Griffiths’ focus on optometry:
“The Minister's statement clearly demonstrates a commitment from our devolved administration to recognise the valuable role that optometrists and dispensing opticians play in the community. Optometry Wales looks forward to working closely with officials at the Welsh Government to develop a public awareness agenda for eye care in Wales.”
Bryony Pawinska, Chief Executive of the College of Optometrists emphasised the importance of meeting the challenge to improve ophthalmic public health:
“Optometrists can play a major part in saving people’s sight and tackling the large inequalities in eye health between different communities. The College is helping to bring together the people across eye care who are passionate about meeting these challenges and I would be delighted to share our work with the Minister.”
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For further information please contact Stuart Holland, Public Affairs, College of Optometrists on 0207 766 4383 or email@example.com
Notes to editors
Optometry Wales is the professional umbrella organisation for the primary care eye health profession in Wales; representing all community optometrists, dispensing opticians and optometric practices.
The College of Optometrists is the Professional, Scientific and Examining Body for Optometry in the UK, working for the public benefit. Supporting its 13,000 members in all aspects of professional development, the College provides Pre-Registration training and assessment, continuous professional development opportunities, and advice and guidance on professional conduct and standards, enabling our Members to serve their patients well and contribute to the wellbeing of local communities.