First international conference on women and blindness

e United States, 2.3 million women are visually impaired out of a total of 3.4 million Americans.

Although there are more older women in developed countries and more younger women in developing countries dealing with vision loss, the overall statistics remain the same. Scientists theorize that longevity, smoking, nutrition, and environmental factors may be causing increased eye disease in women in developed nations, while poverty and lack of access to health services are contributing to the appalling statistic in developing countries.

"The fact is we don't have all the answers, but what we do know is that living in a developed, industrialized country does not protect a woman from the risk of vision loss," says Ilene K. Gipson, PhD, a senior scientist at Harvard's Schepens Eye Research Institute and the chair of the Women's Eye Health Task Force, who will give welcoming remarks at the conference, along with Wayne Streilein, MD, president of Harvard's Schepens Eye Research Institute and vice chair of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, and Joan W. Miller, MD, chief of ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and chair of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

Gipson continues: "We hope this conference will be the first step in grappling with the reality of this problem and laying out some strategies to address it. There has been greater recognition of the issue and more resources focused on blindness and women in developing countries (although still not enough) than in the West."

Conference Highlights

In the keynote speech, "Translating Research into Public Health Action," Hugh R. Taylor, MD, the managing director for the Centre for Eye Research at the University of Melbourne in Australia will describe the impact of low vision on the individual and society, the barriers to preventive care and various successful public health initiatives he created in Australia. "We are looking to Dr. Taylor's efforts a

Contact: Patti Jacobs
Schepens Eye Research Institute

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