Lions lasting commitment to improving life in PNG through eye health

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 8 March, 2016: Many lives in Papua New Guinea (PNG) will benefit from the opening of the Lions National Resource Centre for Eye Health on the University of PNG (UPNG) campus. This significant investment from the Lions Clubs International Foundation is an exciting initiative designed specifically to increase eye health outcomes for surrounding communities through both coordination of services and training of local eye care personnel.

The Lions National Resource Centre for Eye Health will be ceremoniously opened on March 9, 2016 at 4pm by the Honorable Malakai Tabar, PNG Member for Gazelle Open and the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.

Blindness and poor vision have a serious impact on individual lives in PNG, leaving a lasting effect on the economy of communities and the country, leading to loss of productivity, greater unemployment and increased health care costs.

Figures show vision impairment for people 50 years and older is 29.2%, with the major causes being the need for spectacles (45.7%) and cataract (35.2%).

The urgent need for eye care in PNG is the focus of the ongoing initiative between PNG Eye Care, Brien Holden Vision Institute and the PNG and Australian governments to develop sustainable systems providing increased access to eye care for all local people. This collaborative relationship began in 2008 and has already achieved increased outcomes in eye care for tens of thousands of Papua New Guineans.

Samuel Koim, Senior Manager, PNG Eye Care spoke about the new centre. “Too often we see a devastating and, sadly, unnecessary toll on communities and individuals alike which could have been prevented with access to eye care. We must continue to work together to address and increase delivery and awareness within PNG. We are very grateful to Lions for their investment in the Lions National Resource Centre for Eye Health.”

Amanda Davis, Chief Operating Officer, Public Health, Brien Holden Vision Institute is attending the launch. “The Lions National Resource Centre will significantly lift the profile of eye care in PNG and that of the Medical School at the University of Papua New Guinea; increase the training and practice of refraction, access to affordable spectacles, plus provide a great model for public-private funding partnerships,” she said.

The NRC will operate to centrally coordinate:

•    Eye care services and health promotion activities to increase awareness in PNG
•    National distribution of low cost spectacles and low vision devices within PNG
•    Education and training of eye care personnel including nurses, ophthalmologists and spectacle technicians
•    Capacity development of the National Prevention of Blindness Committee supporting national advocacy

In support of this project, CBM PNG, a member of the National Prevention of Blindness Committee, has been working with UPNG to develop and fund a position for an ophthalmology lecturer at UPNG. This development will further add to the strength of the project and to the profile of eye health in PNG.

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Acknowledgement of Country

BHVI and Brien Holden Foundation acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal custodians of the many lands that we live and work on, and their continuing connection to Country and culture.

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