First Fiji Albinism Awareness Symposium
As part of an initiative to increase knowledge of albinism, the First Fiji Albinism Awareness Symposium was held on August 12th and 13th 2015, bringing together a multidisciplinary group of people to gain a better understanding of the educational, medical and social needs of people with albinism in Fiji. After a small workshop that was conducted in November 2014, it was found that very little was known in Fiji in terms of knowledge of vision or skin issues, and the impact they have on the lives of those with albinism. The need for raising awareness and educating the people of Fiji at all levels was recognised resulting in this year’s symposium
A Fijian-Australian partnership called the Fiji Albinism Project brought together a team of presenters from health and education sectors with both professional and personal experience of albinism from Australia and Fiji. The response was overwhelming, with nearly 150 people from all sectors attending, including the Minister for Health and Medical Services, ministerial secretaries, doctors, nurses, teachers, people with albinism and parents of children with albinism, other allied health workers and interested organisations.
Fijian and Australian presenters covered a variety of albinism related subjects including genetics, the skin structure and diseases of the skin, including skin cancer, as well as the effects of UVA and UVB light and the need for sun protection. Eye related topics included the ocular changes and the role of low vision clinics, low vision outreach workers and referral pathways within Fiji. Educators from the Fiji School for the Blind spoke about how they cater for their students and supported integration of children into mainstream schools.
Talks on advocacy for those with albinism in Australia and the work done by the Pacific Albinism Project in other Pacific Islands provided some insight into what can be achieved. People with albinism, and family members of those with albinism shared their personal experiences providing insight into their lives, becoming positive role models with their stories of shared challenges, successes and celebrations.
In the final session of the symposium, all participants worked in breakout groups making recommendations to identify priorities for the future and how they could be achieved. These recommendations have been presented to the Fiji Ministry of Health and will be used to direct the way forward for the Fiji Albinism Project.
With thanks to Mrs Jan Brown from the GSK sponsored Pulse Programme for her hard work helping to make the Symposium so successful.
For more information about raising awareness for Albinism in Fiji you can click on this link