It's International Women's Day again - a great opportunity to celebrate being a woman and be thankful for the wonderful women in our lives. Last year I shared a post about how we as women can take care of our eyes and our vision but the reality is, this isn't possible for a lot of women around the world.
Women have spent the greater part of the last century fighting for equality in their homes, workplaces and in their rights. While political gender gaps are often obvious, did you know we have gender gaps in our eyes and the health of our eyes too?
According to the Fred Hollows Foundation, women are 1.3 times more likely than men to be blind or have vision problems. The scarier part is that 4 out of 5 of these women are suffering from preventable blindness.
What is Preventable Blindness?
Preventable blindness is simply blindness that doesn’t have to be there. It’s preventable because it could be cured by surgery, medication, or therapies, but for some reason or another – that did not happen. So why are women more affected than our male counterparts?
Why is Preventable Blindness higher for women than men?
According to the Fred Hollows Foundation, the gender gap in women’s eye health exists, just as it does in other aspects of our lives. Both biological and societal facts affect why women are not seeking the treatment they need.
Biologically, women have a longer life expectancy. This makes us more likely to develop eye issues like glaucoma, cataracts and age related macular degeneration. Pregnancy and menopause can bring on puffy eye, dry eye, or gestational diabetes, all of which put pressure and stress on our eyes.
Socially, women are not accessing proper eye healthcare at the same rates as men. We tend to make sure the kids and our partners are cared for first, and often put ourselves last, not necessarily leaving room for our eye health. Simple factors, such as lack of knowledge and accessibility of services, are preventing us from proper eye health too.
Simply put, we have the opportunities for better eye care, we just aren’t accessing it. We are also living longer than ever and perhaps aren’t aware of the needs of our eye health. The disparity of course is greater for women living in low to middle income and developing countries.
The Fred Hollows Foundation
The Fred Hollows Foundation is committed to ending preventable blindness and believes in equal right to sight. They work all over the world, including right here in Australia, helping people bridge the gap between seeking eye health care and successful eye treatment. They recognise the gender gaps involved in healthcare and have put women and girls at the forefront of their programs. They are employing strategies to reduce blindness in women and girls, such as; focussed programming, training, access, outreach and including eye heath in prenatal care.
What can we do?
While the foundation works mainly with developing countries and low to middle income communities, all women need to know and understand the risks and factors associated with eye health and be aware of their rights to proper care. We can start at home by spreading the word, and talking to our mothers, sisters, friends and daughters about proper eye care and health. We can also lead by example and make sure we make our own eye health a priority too. Our kids are monkeys and monkey see – monkey do!
On Friday July 26 2019, I will be taking part in the Coastrek. My team and I will be trekking for 30km from Mudjimba Beach to Noosa, right here on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, in Australia! You can read more about this or check out my fundraising page here.
So this International Women's Day, take a minute for self-care and women’s rights, and book yourself an eye test today. Lead by example!