THREE specific eye diseases that contribute to blindness in the country and the Pacific are cataracts, uncorrected refractive errors and diabetic retinopathy.
This was highlighted by Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma during the Pacific Regional Eye Health Conference held at the Novotel Hotel in Lami yesterday.
Dr Sharma said the changing demographics, change in lifestyle behaviours to one that eats more processed food rather than organic food, and reduced physical activity contributed to the possibility that clinics would be flooded with more visual impairment cases if people do not act now.
"I note that a few presentations are on spectacles program. This is a challenge we face in the 20 per cent of the population living below the poverty line accessing affordable, appropriate spectacles," Dr Sharma said.
"In the recent year, trachoma, a neglected tropical disease that is known to cluster in areas of poverty where water, hygiene and sanitation issues prevail, has also emerged as another ocular disease to be eliminated in Fiji and the Pacific."
He said in moving on from primary eye care and onto secondary eye care, the ministry acknowledged the many partners, stakeholders in eye care — locally and internationally — who have contributed to delivery of eye programs that help achieve strategic goals.
"Health in general is going through a very challenging period.
"In many cases, diseases have come about as a consequence of psycho-social determinants, behavioural choices, violence and injury-related to non-health issues. Changes in both the internal and external environment have added to the burden of disease."