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Working together towards Blindness Prevention

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the Rotary "Seeing Eye To Eye" International Seminar 2017 

07 October 2017

Datuk Lee Chuen Wan, District Governor, Rotary International District 3310

Dr Baskaran G Krishnan, District Governor Elect, Rotary International District 3300

Distinguished Speakers, Rotarians, and Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. A very good morning. It is my pleasure to be here at the Seeing Eye to Eye International Conference 2017. I would like to extend a special welcome to our guests from the region, including Rotarians and representatives of overseas healthcare institutions. It is heartening to be among so many of you who believe in volunteerism and service to the community.

Working together to raise awareness of blindness prevention

2. The theme of today’s conference is focussed on blindness prevention in ASEAN. Eye-related disorders are a significant concern for all of us, especially the elderly. According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), about 65% of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and above. This means more people are at risk of age-related visual impairments as they get older. This is a particular concern for Singapore as our population ages.

3. There is a silver lining: the IAPB also says that 80% of visual impairments are readily treatable or preventable. Hence, it is critical for us to work together to raise awareness of blindness prevention.

4. In Singapore, we have national initiatives and public institutions to inculcate good eye care habits. The Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), one of the key partners for today’s conference, initiated the annual National Eye Care Day in 2000 to promote eye health awareness among Singaporeans of all ages. Since 2012, a team of SNEC optometrists has also conducted eye care talks and exhibitions at schools all over Singapore, reaching out to over 30,000 students.

Effective collaboration between the private and public sector is key 

5. However, the responsibility of raising awareness of blindness prevention does not rest on public institutions alone. There is a role for the greater society, to complement the efforts of the government. The Rotary is doing their part. In the run-up to this conference, various Rotary Clubs in Singapore worked with agencies and community partners to screen more than 800 elderly Singaporeans, free of charge. The participants were screened for common age-related eye conditions, and subsequently referred to public agencies, if needed. The Rotary is even providing financial assistance to those in need. I also understand that tomorrow, SNEC will be partnering the Lions Clubs of Singapore to screen 500 people at Bishan Community Centre, so that more from the community can benefit from early eye-screenings.

6. These wonderful initiatives are examples of how non-governmental organisations and volunteers can make a big difference to the community. Raising awareness of blindness prevention requires a “many helping hands” approach, through effective collaboration between the private and public sector. Such partnerships embody the spirit of care and consideration.

7. At the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, we work with many agencies, community partners as well as big-hearted individuals to grow SG Cares. It is a nation-wide movement to amplify the goodwill of Singaporeans and support them to better help those in need.

8. Your effort is contributing to SG Cares too. I hope you can share the lessons of collaborative partnership and innovation learnt here, with others around the region. Together, we can make ASEAN a more caring and inclusive one.

Conclusion

9. Finally, I’d like to thank the Rotarians and their partners for organising and hosting this conference. I’d also like to encourage all of you to continue your efforts in promoting blindness prevention and eye care. By stepping forward, you can make a difference in the lives of others.

10. I wish you a rewarding and fruitful conference, and the very best in your journey of service to the community. Thank you.

Last Updated: 07 October 2017

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