28 October 2015 Volume :3 Issue :49

UKZN Academic and Lions Club Join Forces in Aid of Eyesight

UKZN Academic and Lions Club Join Forces in Aid of Eyesight
Professor Kovin Naidoo.

UKZN’s Professor in Optometry, Professor Kovin Naidoo, is to implement a research programme with the aim of measuring the implications of correcting ageing near sight (presbyopia) with regard to productivity and vision-related quality of life assessments.

Naidoo is the CEO of UKZN’s African Vision Research Institute (AVRI) and Acting CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute.

The 12-month research project, funded by the Lion’s Club International Foundation (LCIF), will examine the vision of 600 KwaZulu-Natal textile factory workers at their workplace.

With age, the lens inside a human eye becomes less flexible and its ability to change shape is reduced. This inevitable loss of flexibility is called presbyopia which causes near vision to be blurred. This usually happens progressively to everyone over the age of 40.

Said Naidoo, the Principal Investigator of the research programme: ‘Uncorrected vision impairment is a major public health issue. The prevalence of both myopia (short-sightedness) and presbyopia (inability to focus on close objects) is increasing dramatically world-wide. Our ability to address this challenge is going to be influenced by the evidence we produce about the value of correcting near vision. Work Productivity Studies provide a good indicator of the economic value for employers to invest in correcting their staff’s vision.

‘Advocacy is key to expanding services both by governments and the business sector. It is hoped that the data from this study will influence policies that are pro-poor and thus increase access to vision correction,’ said Naidoo.

The research programme also aims to develop eye health promotion material that will be distributed nationwide to benefit about 100 000 South African factory workers. ‘Materials of this nature can help change eye health perceptions and eye health seeking behaviour of factory workers, thus increasing public awareness.’

Naidoo is also involved in a second study that received a grant from the Lions Clubs International Foundation.

The research, to be conducted in Bogota in Colombia, aims to collect accurate and relevant data about uncorrected refractive error and spectacle uptake in order to plan and implement appropriate eye care initiatives that will reduce the burden of avoidable vision impairment.

The key research findings from all these programmes will be published and made available to eye health professionals through seminars and professional meetings, posters and presentations at local, regional and international conferences.

Chairperson of the Lions Clubs International Foundation, Mr Joel Preston, said: ‘This research will further the LCIF SightFirst programme by identifying the needs and assessing programme strategies related to equity, capacity building and sustainability in the delivery of eye care in South Africa and Colombia.’

An estimated 1.04 billion people worldwide had presbyopia in 2005, and of these, 517 million had either no spectacles or inadequate spectacles causing significant near vision impairment. With the world’s population ageing rapidly, the global prevalence of presbyopia is predicted to increase to 1.4 billion by 2020 and to 1.8 billion by 2050.

 MaryAnn Francis

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