Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State (Health), Launch of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Week , 11 Oct 2014

Mrs Chew Kwee Tiang, CEO, KTPH

A/Prof Kenneth Mak, Chairman Medical Board, KTPH

Dr Yip Chee Chew, Head, Ophthalmology and Visual Science Department, KTPH

Members of the AMD Organizing Committee 2014

Ladies and gentlemen,

1.    Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you here today at the launch of the Age-related Macular Degeneration (also known as AMD) Awareness Week 2014 organized by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. This year marks the 10th anniversary of this public campaign.

Ageing population and the challenges for eye care in Singapore

2.    Singapore is one of the fastest ageing societies in the world. Age-related Macular Degeneration, as the name suggests, becomes more common with increasing age. In Europe and United States, AMD is reported as the most common cause of visual impairment after the age of 60 years. In Singapore, AMD is the third most common cause of blindness and low vision for people aged over 60. Based on a local study, about 5.1% of adults aged over 40 years have early AMD and 0.5% have late AMD [1].

Effect of poor vision in the elderly

3.    AMD results in poor vision and thus significantly affects one’s quality of life. It disrupts important activities of daily living such as difficulty in reading, driving and even facial recognition. Poor vision also contributes to higher risk for falls, depression and social isolation. Therefore, prevention and early detection of potentially blinding conditions such as AMD is crucial to enable our seniors to lead independent and active lives at their homes and community.

Public awareness of AMD

4.    Blindness is a disability most feared by people, and yet, not many know what AMD is about. A local study by the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) reported that only 7.3 per cent of Singapore residents interviewed were aware of AMD in 2006. This was much lower than the awareness levels in western countries like the United States, Canada and Australia. However, a subsequent follow-up study in 2011 showed that the awareness levels for AMD in Singapore had increased to 28 per cent, a four-fold increase over five years. This could be attributed to the increased efforts by eye professionals on raising the awareness of AMD among Singaporeans.

5.    I was told that there are two types of AMD – dry and wet. The “dry” form is more common and slower in progression. It can be controlled by managing modifiable risk factors such as smoking, increasing dietary intake of green leafy vegetables and other measures. For the less common “wet” form of AMD, it is more progressive but vision can be preserved and even improved if the disease is detected early and treated promptly. Thus, educating Singaporeans about AMD could potentially improve disease control for those with AMD.  

Nationwide collaborative effort for AMD in Singapore

6.    Since 2005, KTPH has organized the annual AMD Awareness Week in collaboration with partners such as AMD Alliance International, Health Promotion Board, Macular Degeneration Society, other public hospitals, public and educational institutions, and various community centres. In this collaborative initiative, eye care professionals such as eye doctors, optometrists, and opticians joined hands with like-minded voluntary non-profit organizations in educating the public on the importance of having regular eye examinations, and seeking treatment early if they have symptoms such as blurring or distortion of vision. The efforts of KTPH and its partners have played a vital role in increasing awareness of this debilitating disease.

7.    This year marks the 10th anniversary of the AMD Awareness Week, and the doctors from KTPH’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences are launching a commemorative book to chronicle a successful decade of this collaborative nationwide AMD awareness campaign. The book features the various activities organized by participating local and international organizations in raising awareness of AMD and hopes to spur other countries in the region to similarly embark on raising awareness for AMD. The book will be distributed free to public and tertiary libraries. I will like to congratulate KTPH and its partners for keeping up this wonderful work over the past ten years.

8.    Our eyes are our windows to this beautiful world we live in. Let us continue to work together to create greater awareness on the detection, prevention and treatment of AMD and other eye diseases, so that we can continue to witness the many more wonderful moments in our lives.

9.    Thank you.


 

[1] Cheung CM et al. Prevalence, racial variations, and risk factors of age-related macular degeneration in Singaporean Chinese, Indians, and Malays. Elsevier Inc. 2014. It was a population-based cross-sectional study, which involved 10,033 persons 40 years of age or older residing in Singapore.

 

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