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Bedford Borough schools have taken part in the first child-led campaign launched to tackle avoidable blindness in the UK.


The Eye Heroes project has been launched by a team of experts in the field of ophthalmology and human centred design, supported by Moorfields Eye Charity. Eye Heroes plans to work with schools, healthcare professionals and local authorities to engage children through volunteer-run workshops in schools and after-school clubs, equipping with them with the information and understanding required to spread the word to adults within their family and wider communities.


Bedford Borough Council has a leading role in the Bedfordshire Eye Care Working Group (BECWG), and has supported the delivery of the Eye Heroes project alongside Healthwatch Bedford Borough, enabling the project to be delivered in local schools.


Eye Heroes Workshops recently took place at Priory Lower, Scott Lower, Shackleton Lower and Balliol Lower School.


It is vital that you and your family have regular sight tests.  These are free for children and people aged 60 or over.  You may also be entitled to a free sight test if you are on a low income. Sight tests can identify a number of health issues, so can really help you protect your ‘whole’ health.


Cllr Mohammad Yasin, Portfolio Holder for Adults’ Services at Bedford Borough Council said: “This is an excellent partnership initiative. There are huge benefits to working in partnership, to deliver a consistent message about the importance of eye health, the impact of which cannot be underestimated.  Sending the message out via children, so that they can take what they have learnt home, helps to remind parents that they also need to keep their eye health in check. It is also very important to make young people aware of what they can do to ensure they avoid any sight problems later in life.”


Mr. Declan Flanagan, Medical Director and consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital says: “Poor vision leaves many individuals lonely and isolated from their family, friends and community. This often prevents them from playing a meaningful and satisfying part in the life of their community. Poor vision can frequently be prevented, reduced or cured by increasing awareness of the causes of blindness. The individuals most at risk of preventable sight loss frequently have difficulty getting treatment.  This project educating children about eye health will raise awareness in their communities of what can be done to help reduce the number of people with avoidable sight loss.”


Emma Freda, Communications & Public Engagement Officer for Healthwatch Bedford Borough added:  “We were honoured to be approached back in early July by the Bedfordshire Eye Care Working Group (BECWG) as we are always happy to support and engage in partnership working wherever possible. We have 13 local Youth Ambassadors aged 16-18 who we are very proud to say are now fully trained to peer teach Eye Health workshops to Lower School pupils within the borough. Their dedication and diligence so far, whilst undertaking this work, has been an inspiration to us and we hope will further enhance their academic profiles. We are very much looking forward to the future.”


Eye Heroes launched in Bedford Borough on the 21st September 2015, for a period of 3 months, and will be rolled out nationally in the new year.


Visit http://www.eyeheroes.org.uk/ to bring Eye Heroes to your local authority, school or afterschool club.


For more information on eye health, contact Bedford Borough Council’s Sensory Impairment team on 01234 228940.

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