Prime Minister Abbott meets project leaders in Sri Lanka

Tracy Parish

18 November, 2013

Image courtesy of Andy Nilsen, The Fred Hollows Foundation

Listen to the Radio Australia/NewsRadio interview featuring Dr Wendy Holmes' talking about the importance of the project for elderly communities.

Prime Minister, the Hon. Tony Abbott MP has met with Burnet Institute researchers and Gabi Hollows in Colombo, Sri Lanka to hear about the ‘Better Vision and Healthy Ageing’ research program.

Mr Abbott attended a reception at the Australian High Commission in Colombo and discussed the benefits of the joint project with Burnet’s program technical director Dr Wendy Holmes, The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Gabi Hollows, and members of Sri Lanka’s Elders’ Clubs.

Burnet Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb welcomed the Prime Minister’s interest in the project during his busy CHOGM commitments.

“The research outcomes from this collaboration will help strengthen local systems in Sri Lanka to improve vision, health and wellbeing,“ Professor Crabb said.

The three-year research project is designed to show the critical role vision plays in the overall health of older people, especially in Sri Lanka, the fastest growing ageing population in Asia.

Research is focused on members of Elders’ Clubs in tea plantations in the Nuwara Eliya District, east of Colombo, who are undergoing eye screening and health education. The clubs have been formed in partnership with Burnet Institute and local NGOs to make a positive impact on older people’s lives.

After first visiting the country in the 1970s, Gabi Hollows said she was excited to bring her husband Fred’s dream of ending avoidable blindness back to Sri Lanka.

“The work we are doing here with elders from the tea plantations is ensuring that people who have worked their entire lives in very difficult conditions now receive the support they need to live happy, healthy lives – with clear vision,” she said.

“This project is helping to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of elders accessing the eye health services they need.

“The elders told us that ‘you can lose a hand, or a leg, and go on – but being without your sight is like losing your life.’ In Sri Lanka, as it is everywhere, sight is life.”

The project is expected to provide an important blueprint for other low and middle-income countries on how to incorporate vision services into healthy ageing strategies.

Find out more about the Better Vision and Healthy Ageing project.


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Burnet Institute

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