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 Address by Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy on the occasion of Blindness Awareness Month 2008

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“Making Everyday a Healthy Vision Day”


I am pleased, once again, to formally declare open the month of activities which the Saint Lucia Blind Welfare Association organizes each year to showcase its programmes for the blind and visually-impaired among us, and to sensitize the general public about issues regarding eye health and related disabilities.  As always, a special theme has been chosen to direct our collective attention on a specific aspect of the wide-ranging vision which the Association has embraced as it gives effect to its mandate of preventing blindness whenever possible.  In 2006, we reflected on the theme “Eliminating Avoidable Blindness:  Our Gift to the Nation”.  I referred then to the magnanimity of that sector of society which itself suffers from sightlessness but wants to offer to the rest of us as a gift, the gift of sight.  In 2007, we were urged by the Association to “Take Responsibility for Our Sight”; a call for pro-action rather than re-action on our part to manage that which has been described as our most treasured sense – the Sense of Sight.


This year, the Association is inviting us all to “Make Everyday a Healthy Vision Day”.  A most topical and timely invitation, given the nation’s heightened awareness of the issue of wellness and the need to become and to remain both physically and mentally fit.  We watch what we eat; we are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of regular exercise.  Walking for all kinds of causes has become one of the activities of choice for many public sensitization campaigns.  That is good, and we wish to encourage these types of initiatives.  In calling on the nation to “make every day a healthy vision day” the Blind Welfare Association is drawing to our attention that what we have been doing to maintain the health and fitness of other organs of the body, we ought to do for our eyes.  There is a Chinese proverb that goes like this

“The eyes are the window of one’s soul!  It is essential that we take care of this organ of vision”.


It is to be expected therefore that persons would have come up with fitness techniques and programmes to develop and maintain a healthy vision.  The concept of “Food for Sight” for example, is gaining prominence and may soon rival “Food for a Healthy Heart” or “Food for a Healthy Digestive System”.  So it is then that we are encouraged to let nature help us prevent vision loss with its offering of foods and herbs that benefit our eyesight.  With one out of six persons in the United States of America aged 55 or older developing macular degeneration, the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are becoming quite popular, and you may therefore want to consult your doctor or carry out further research on this to satisfy yourself of the validity of these claims.


Not too long ago, a good friend of mine who herself is in the early stages of macular degeneration – though far from being fifty-five years old – introduced me to the whole idea of “Eyesight Fitness” and shared with me some exercises designed to maintain and improve your vision.  Allow me to share just a few with you, so that we move away from the realm of theory and abstract concept to practical things you can do every day.


The first of these is:


1.      Warming the Eyes: Rub your palms together to create heat, and then place them against your eyes for five seconds.  Repeat three times. 


2.      Rolling the Marble:  Press the back of your thumbs gently against the eyeballs; slowly roll up and down 12 times.  Then slowly roll from side to side 12 times.


3.      Turning the Wheels of Fortune:  Place the thumb knuckles at both temple areas and massage in circular motion three times.  Repeat the same actions above the mid-point of the eyebrows at the forehead, then below the eyes on both sides of the bridge of the nose.


4.      Taking a Nap on the Job:  Put your head back, close your eyes, and relax for three minutes.  Like any other fitness exercise, do this one in moderation.


Levity aside, we do need to commit ourselves to taking seriously the whole notion of eye health.  Treat it as you would the other health issues that we have traditionally addressed.  Include eye-testing in your annual medical check-up, so that problems can be detected early and timely corrective interventions taken.  On a daily basis, however, be aware of things and situations that can cause injury to your eyes, and take preventative action; follow the doctor’s order for the treatment of eye injuries or ailments.


Later on this year, we will be observing World Sight Day under the theme “Eyes on the Future:  fighting vision impairment in later life”, as focus is placed on the aging eye.  In a world where populations are aging and individuals are generally living longer, blindness from chronic conditions will rise.  Making every day a healthy day will translate into making every day a healthy vision day.  Just as we have been used to appreciating the connection between a healthy mind in a healthy body, we need to see the connection between healthy eyes in a healthy body.  The nation’s focus on wellness is therefore a step in the right direction.


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