Community Eye Health team at Hauora | Health Research Week

Community Eye Health team at Hauora | Health Research Week

Hauora research week

Members of the Community Eye Health Team on the first day of the Whakaaturanga Rangahau Wiki Hauora (Health Week Research Expo) at Kia Aroha Campus: Left to right: Joanna Black, Jaymie Rodgers, Sachi Rathod, Jacqui Ramke, Telusila Vea

In May 2024, the Community Eye Health team took part in the Whakaaturanga Rangahau Wiki Hauora (Health Week Research Expo) at Kia Aroha Campus in South Auckland.

Kia Aroha school offers a learning approach that encourages Year 1 to 13 students’ Māori and Pacific cultural identify. As an initiative of Iwi United Engaged—an organisation committed to advancing Maori health and wellbeing—the Health Research Expo aims to bring together health research with tamariki and their whanau within the wider community.

The event was engaging for both students and the visiting kairangahau (researchers), with over twenty different interactive displays on offer. Over the three-day event, the Vision Bus Aotearoa staff and students provided free vision screening services and follow-up care to Year 9 children, alongside other wellness checks. Meanwhile, other Community Eye Health team members were busy engaging with tamariki about eyes and vision, and the students were excited to take home their own pair of 3D glasses and some information packs about “eye health”.

We thank Kia Aroha school for inviting us to participate in this event, and we hope to see you again next year.

ngā mihi nui | fa’afelai lava | malo ‘aupito

Renata Watene gives keynote presentation at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference

Renata Watene gives keynote presentation at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference

Renata NATSIEHC23 conferenceIn May 2023, Renata Watene was honoured as the first International Keynote Speaker at the prestigious National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference in Parramatta, Australia.

Renata is renowned for her work in indigenous eye health in Aotearoa. Her presentation titled Indigenous Voice from Aotearoa – A kōrero about what we can learn from one another.” was well received by the 240 delegates, including the more than 100 First Nations representatives from all corners of Australia.

The conference served as a valuable platform to promote equitable outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The conference theme, “Our Vision in Our Hands: Finding Our Voice,” emphasised the importance of emerging and future First Nations leaders while acknowledging our current leaders’ and esteemed Elders’ pivotal previous work.

During her presentation, Renata delved into the similarities and differences between Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander and Māori cultures, explored the role of Te Tiriti, and highlighted the vital role health practitioners play in achieving equitable outcomes for Indigenous Peoples.

Overall, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference proved to be a momentous occasion, fostering collaboration and understanding among delegates, and paving the way for future progress in achieving equitable outcomes for all.

See here for a detailed summary of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference 2023.

Inaugural Buchanan Charitable Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow aims to strengthen eye care services within our reforming health system.

Inaugural Buchanan Charitable Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow aims to strengthen eye care services within our reforming health system.

Buchanan team photo

Buchanan Charitable Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Pushkar Silwal (middle) pictured with team members A/Prof Jacqueline Ramke (left) and Dr Braden Te Ao (right).

Pushkar Silwal, a member of the School of Optometry and Vision Science’s Community Eye Health team and the inaugural Buchanan Charitable Foundation’s Postdoctoral Fellow hopes that our transforming health system will better support eye care services that are accessible to everyone.

Although 1.1 billion people experience impaired vision globally, eye health is often overlooked as a public health concern. The ongoing health sector reforms that began in mid-2022 provide a unique opportunity for Pushkar and his colleagues to build on previous research findings and generate much-needed evidence on how eye care services can be more accessible and equitable in New Zealand.

In February 2023, Pushkar began a three-year postdoctoral fellowship funded by the Buchanan Charitable Foundation—a home-grown, philanthropic foundation that supports community development. During his Fellowship, Pushkar will undertake a series of research projects that will investigate how to strengthen our health system, with the goal of improving eye care services in Aotearoa. He will also engage with academics, programme managers, and policy makers to identify opportunities to promote the inclusion of eye health in health system monitoring.

“We hope this will allow us to translate the knowledge we generate into practice,” says Pushkar.

This work will follow on from Pushkar’s PhD research, where he examined whether the measures we use to monitor our health system are appropriate. During his Fellowship, Pushkar will maintain an honorary appointment within the School of Population Health and will be mentored by A/Prof Jacqueline (Jacqui) Ramke from the School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS) and Dr Braden Te Ao from SOPH.

“We are very excited to have Pushkar commence his fellowship with us and welcome his commitment to generate evidence to support equity-focused decision-making in eye health. We are very fortunate for this ongoing support from The Buchanan Charitable Foundation and thank them for their commitment to improve eye health for all New Zealanders”, says Jacqui.

To advocate for improved eye care, Pushkar will draw on a growing body of evidence that New Zealand eye care services are lacking. Last year, he co-authored a report titled “Eye care in Aotearoa New Zealand 2022” that found a range of areas where our eye care services could be strengthened. Commissioned by Eye Health Aotearoa and funded by Blind Low Vision New Zealand, the report systematically assessed our eye care services using an analysis tool developed by the World Health Organization. Importantly, the report provided a list of 81 recommended actions for policy makers to improve our eye care services.

“Our report shows that access to eye care services needs major strengthening,” he says.

Pushkar has a long-standing interest in health systems research. He completed his Master of Public Health in 2016 at The University of Auckland under the Manaaki New Zealand Scholarships Programme and has actively contributed to teaching public policy and health systems at The University of Auckland. This will continue during his fellowship when Pushkar, alongside Jacqui, will integrate a new public health teaching module within The University of Auckland’s Bachelor of Optometry programme. He hopes that this will help build eye health in Aotearoa from the ground up, so that future optometrists can advocate for and deliver accessible eye health services for everyone.



Behind the scenes of the Community Eye Pilot Study

In July 2021, the Community Eye Health team conducted a pilot eye health survey in the Glen Innes, Panmure and Ōrākei areas of Auckland. This survey gave us the opportunity to collect information about the state of eye health in a small group of New Zealanders, before we embark on our more ambitious population-based eye health survey in 2023.

Lead Optometrist and PhD candidate Jaymie Rodgers played a key role in the day-to-day operations of this pilot study.

“As part of my research project, I am delivering comprehensive eye examinations to people in this community where we believe there may be unmet eye health needs. In particular, we want to know if there are any differences in access to eye care,” says Jaymie.

Throughout the pilot study, Jaymie together with Optometrist and Professional Teaching Fellow Veeran Morar supervised a team of clinical optometry students as they conducted eye examinations at the Te Whare Piringa community centre in Glen Innes.

Watch Jaymie and team set up the eye clinic at Te Whare Piringa community centre in Glen Innes, above.

Currently, Jaymie is busy analysing data from the survey pilot, and enrolling a cohort of participants for further follow-up. Her PhD research will continue within the population-based eye care survey that will begin in 2023, where she will will follow a group of participants with vision impairment over a 12-month period to understand the barriers that they face in accessing follow-up eye care services.

See inside the pop-up eye clinic, below:


The research team: 


The research team would like to acknowledge Peter and Rae Fehl, Blind Low Vision New Zealand and New Zealand Association of Optometrists for their support.

Participants in this project are benefiting from the SOVS Community Spectacle Scheme, which is supported by Helen Blake, Barbara Blake and Essilor.

World Sight Day 2022: everyone counts

World Sight Day 2022: everyone counts

World Sight Day logo

Raising awareness about eye health globally.

On 12 October, the eve of World Sight Day 2022, at the United Nations in New York, the World Health Organization launched its Report of the 2030 targets on effective coverage of eye care.

The report, which draws on research co-authored by SOVS Associate Professor Jacqui Ramke, will serve as a reference point for countries’ efforts towards meeting the ambitious global eye health targets endorsed by Member States of the 74th World Health Assembly in 2021. These are:

  • A 30-percentage point increase in effective cataract surgical coverage (eCSC) and
  • A 40-percentage point increase in effective refractive error coverage (eREC)
What is eCSC and eREC?

Effective cataract surgical coverage (eCSC) measures the number of people in a population that have been operated for cataract, and had a good outcome, as a proportion of all the people requiring or having received surgery in that population.

Similarly, effective refractive error coverage (eREC) is defined as the proportion of people in need of services to correct refractive error such as spectacles or contact lenses, who have received these interventions and have a resultant good-quality outcome.

You can read more about the importance of these targets and how they came to be adopted by the World Health Assembly — with a view to also making them proxy indicators for Universal Health Coverage — in a blogpost on the International Centre for Eye Health‘s website, written by Jacqui with London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine colleagues Professor Matthew Burton and Ian McCormick.

Here in Aotearoa, we continue to collect information on how people are experiencing eye health services, whether they are able to access the services they need, and what solutions might be needed to ensure that everyone who needs eye care in Aotearoa can receive it.

We are excited to soon begin a project that will include Aotearoa’s first population-based survey that will generate our first estimates of eCSC and eREC. These estimates are crucial to inform equity-focused planning, and will also help raise the profile of eye health on global health and development agenda.

Find out more:

What is World Sight Day?

World Sight Day is an International Day of Awareness, held annually on the second Thursday of October. This year, World Sight Day is Thursday, 13 October 2022. World Sight Day is coordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

This year, the IAPB, its members and partners is encouraging everyone to take a moment to think about the importance of eye health for everyone, everywhere: