The Macular Degeneration Foundation congratulates Patron Ita Buttrose on the honour of being named Australian of the Year 2013.
"The Macular Degeneration Foundation has been greatly privileged to have Ita's support as Patron over the past eight years," said Julie Heraghty CEO of the Macular Degeneration Foundation.
"Ita has given her time and expertise to raise awareness across the country to save the sight of so many Australians. What is remarkable about Ita is her willingness to share her own personal story, and her family's journey with this disease, in order to spread the word about early detection and prevention of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in Australia," she said.
Ita's remarkable contribution
Ita Buttrose accepted the position of Patron of the Macular Degeneration Foundation in a voluntary capacity in 2005 and since that time has been instrumental to the Foundation's success in raising awareness of macular degeneration in Australia.
At the time of her appointment the Foundation was only a young organisation without a strong public face and little recognition of the disease. Established in 2001, as the national peak body, the Macular Degeneration Foundation with the support of Ita has significantly influenced the lives of many older Australians at risk of developing this disease.
During her tenure as patron Ita has enthusiastically been at the forefront of the Foundation's highly focused awareness activities with awareness increasing by 48% (from 58% in 2007 to 86% in 2011) in those in the at risk group of over 50.
Ita is an instantly recognisable and respected public figure and a voice of influence to all Australians. Being at greater risk of developing the disease herself, due to her father having macular degeneration, Ita has been able to convey the key health messages for macular degeneration by generously sharing her own personal experience.
Contributing significantly to the remarkable increase in awareness of macular degeneration over the last four years was the development and launch of Eating for Eye Health – The Macular Degeneration Cookbook, written by Ita Buttrose and chef, Vanessa Jones. Eating for Eye Health was one of the most exciting projects undertaken by the Foundation and Ita Buttrose generously donated her expertise and time over a year to produce, with chef Vanessa Jones, the first ever eye health cookbook in Australia.
The launch included a massive media campaign centred on Ita and included extensive promotional activities and interviews. Eating for Eye Health has been extraordinarily popular with the initial print run selling out in only three months. It is now in its third print run.
The Eating for Eye Health project approached awareness raising of macular degeneration from a completely different perspective – prevention through nutrition, diet and lifestyle. It has provided a major platform for the promotion of key health messages through nutrition, exercise, healthy living and anti-smoking.
The annual Macular Degeneration Awareness Week (MDAW) is a key awareness activity for the Foundation. Ita's role as patron and spokesperson has enabled the Foundation to reach millions of Australians at risk of macular degeneration.
Ita frequently promotes macular degeneration through her speaking engagements and media interviews, reinforcing the key message "macular degeneration causes blindness. Have your eyes tested and macula checked." The Foundation appreciates this ongoing reinforcement through her own personal engagements.
There is no doubt that the success of the Foundation, which aims to reduce the incidence and impact of macular degeneration in Australia, is highly attributable to our patron, Ita Buttrose. Without Ita's involvement the Foundation would not be the world leader in macular degeneration that it is today. Her public profile and commitment to the Macular Degeneration Foundation has made this possible.
“My father was in his mid-eighties when he lost his central vision to macular degeneration. It changed his life. As a journalist and author he had always started his day reading a couple of newspapers. Suddenly this was no longer possible.
“As a journalist and author myself I couldn't imagine not being able to ever read again. I was as devastated about Dad's fate as he was.
“One of Dad's sisters also had MD and their youngest brother was also diagnosed. Fortunately the sight of one of my uncle's eyes has been saved with the help of a treatment for wet MD. This has been a major breakthrough in the management of the disease and my uncle's doctor has been able to stabilise his vision. If only this treatment had been around to help Dad, how happier the last years of his life would have been.
“One thing I have noticed is how few people know that a family history of the disease brings with it a high risk of MD. When I tell them that I have a 50 per cent chance of getting it too, most people are usually shocked. My children are equally at risk and consequently we all do some kind of regular exercise, watch our weight and follow the eating program recommended by the Foundation.
“I get my macula checked annually and when my ophthalmic surgeon tells me my 'macula is in pristine condition' his words are music to my ears!”
25 January 2013