30 Dec 2009

Fiji survey show many unaware of link between diabetes and blindness

4:54 pm on 30 December 2009

An eye health survey in Fiji is indicating that many people are still not aware of the high likelihood of diabetes.

Early results from the survey in Fiji suggest forty per cent of those over 40 have the disease, compared with 9 per cent of people in New Zealand.

Over half of all the Indo Fijians screened had the disease.

The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ spoke to nearly 1,400 people over forty in 34 locations around the main island of Viti Levu.

The Foundation's International Programme Director, Dr Tom Schaefer, says changing people's attitudes toward lifestyle diseases could take decades:

"If you just keep at it and keep focusing on it change does the happen. The concern we have is that if you try to make it only a health system problem where we are treating it through medication and surgery for eyes and insulin and so forth the system isn't going to be able to handle it because the rate is increasing. The best hope now is to slow the rate of increase."

Dr Schaefer says the Health Ministry in Fiji is pushing the awareness message, and these figures will help define the scale of the problem