Specsavers: Caring For Your Eyes

Hello everyone. Welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for today, Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Naomi Barber, Senior Optometrist
at Specsavers. Today, we’re going to talk about the state
of eye health among Australian children. Without further ado, welcome to the show,
Naomi. It’s so nice to have you here. Thanks so much for having me, Tabetha. My pleasure. So Naomi, please tell the audience more about
yourself, particularly, something about your background. Sure. I’m a qualified optometrist working here in
Australia. I’ve worked for Specsavers for 6 years in
WA, New South Wales and also in Victoria. I now work at Specsavers support office here
in Melbourne. Fantastic. Tell us what’s going on with the state of
eye health among Australian children. We’re really interested in this for some time
now and we’re wanting or we’ve performed actually some research to understand a little bit more
about parent’s mentality towards children’s eye health and I guess to direct what we can
do to make sure that more children are getting their eyes tested and we’re picking up eye
conditions earlier for children. The Specsavers research has shown that up
to 1 in 4 children have an undiagnosed eye condition. What’s even more concerning is that 1 in 3
children, under the age of 14 in Australia haven’t actually had an eye care. Yes. That sounds very surprising indeed. What can parents do in order to help children
with this condition? I guess one of the key messages we found out
through the Specsavers research is that parents aren’t really aware that many of these eye
conditions for children present without any other symptoms. What the research showed was that 38% of parents
had not really thought about an eye care for their children. So they just weren’t prioritizing it alongside
GP appointments and dentist appointments and other things. We also found that 50% of parents had not
taken their children for an eye care just because they didn’t think anything was wrong. I guess one of the main messages, what we’re
wanting to promote is that it’s really important for children to have their eyes tested and
we recommend from the age of 3 years old. And then even if there is no major concern,
suspicion or they’re not presenting with any symptom, it’s still really important to have
this crucial check performed. That’s true. I agree with you on that Naomi, because as
parents we often think that eye problems are associated with old age so we think, “Oh no. My kid is just 5 years old. There’s no problem with her.” Unfortunately, this is something that we need
to educate parents on. Absolutely. Children are also unaware that they’re not
seeing very well. They don’t have anything to compare to and
not that great at articulating what the problem might be. So it’s really important to be on the lookout
to that but to get a comprehensive eye check performed first to ensure that any problem
is detected. Speaking of eye conditions, what are the common
eye conditions that children suffer from especially Australian children? That’s a really good question. I guess one of the most common things that
we detected is the need for glasses. Whether a child is not seeing clearly up close
or in a distance, and of course, that can go on to have a considerable impact on how
they learn, their social skills, and their confidence as they move through schooling. But there are other really significant things
that can go wrong with eyes particularly for children – muscle weaknesses that can cause
1 or both eyes to turn inwards or outwards, having a weak eye which is not always detectable
just to look at the child, but can certainly be picked up in an eye test and then other
things, problems with focusing and concentration up close which can really affect children
in their learning. They sought to things need to be picked up
before the age of 7 or 8. A child’s eye grows very dramatically from
infancy up until the age of about 8. So even optometrist can check and detect these
things, we have the best possible chance of managing these conditions. Most of these conditions are easily manageable
with glasses or with eye exercises and with close monitoring. Very interesting. Now, if you don’t mind Naomi, can I ask you
a personal question? Sure. Why are you so passionate about eye health? What got you into this particular field of
medicine? Well, that’s an interesting question and it
actually relates right back to kid’s eye health. As a child, I had an eye that turned inwards
and that obviously led my parents to take me to see an optometrist. So I sat in a chair in a test room for many
years all through to adulthood and it certainly got me interested in what optometrists do. I can definitely vouch for the power of having
your eyes tested early. Wow. Very interesting story. Thank you so much for sharing that. Now, let’s talk about misconceptions. Earlier, you and I were talking about how
parents don’t really have their kids eye checked instead of focusing only on GP appointments
and dental health. Are there any other misconceptions about child
eye health that drives you crazy and it keeps you up at night? Yes. Something that came out in this Specsavers’
research was actually … just they’re about parents felt that their child was too young
to have their eyes tested and we really do want to spell that myth – optometrists are
well-equipped to perform eye test for children as young as 3. We have specialized equipment and specialized
techniques we can use to make sure that they’re comfortable and at ease in the test room. One example is that I guess is that parents
are worried about if their child isn’t confident with their letters, that they may not be able
to read the eye chart but we have pictures and shapes that we can use to understand better
how children are seeing. That’s definitely a misconception and something
that we want to make sure parents are aware, from the age of 3, your child is definitely
suitable to have an eye checked. Fantastic. Thank you so much for clearing up those misconceptions. Pleasure. I would love talk to you more, Naomi but we’re
running out of time. But before we go, what is your main takeaway
message to all of our listeners out there? What would you like to tell them? Well, I guess as I began, we know that 1 in
4 children have an undiagnosed eye condition and that is substantial amount of eye at children
in Australia who have an undiagnosed condition that is either affecting them right now or
could be affecting them very significantly as they grow up, preschool and also into adulthood. We’re really really committed to making sure
that health professionals are aware of the importance of children’s eyes being tested
as part of their holistic well-being and health care. We really recommend that children are getting
in to see an optometrist as soon as possible from the age of 3. Wonderful message. For those who want to contact Specsavers,
how can they do that? The best way to book an appointment at Specsavers
is to go online and you can find your local store there. The website address is www.specsavers.com.au. Fantastic. Thank you so much, Naomi for coming on the
show. It was wonderful having you. Thank you very much, Tabetha. It was a pleasure. And that was Naomi Barber, Senior Optometrist
at Specsavers. If you liked this interview, transcripts and
archives are available at www.hpr.fm. We’re on all social media platforms so don’t
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and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to
Health Professional Radio.

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