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Prevalence of blindness in Western Australia: a population study using capture and recapture techniques
  1. Julie Crewe1,
  2. William H Morgan2,
  3. Nigel Morlet1,
  4. Antony Clark1,
  5. Geoffrey Lam3,
  6. Richard Parsons4,
  7. Aqif Mukhtar1,
  8. Jonathon Ng1,
  9. Margaret Crowley5,
  10. James Semmens1
  1. 1Centre for Population Health Research, Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Australia
  2. 2Lions Eye Institute, Centre for Ophthalmic and Vision Science, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
  3. 3School of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
  4. 4School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, Health Sciences, Curtin University, Perth, Australia
  5. 5The Association for the Blind of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Julie Crewe, Centre for Population Health Research, Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, Western Australia 6845; j.crewe{at}


Aim To determine the prevalence of blinding eye disease in Western Australia using a capture and recapture methodology.

Methods Three independent lists of residents of Western Australia who were also legally blind were collated during the capture periods in 2008–9. The first list was obtained from the state-wide blind register. A second list comprised patients routinely attending hospital outpatient eye clinics over a 6-month period in 2008. The third list was patients attending ophthalmologists' routine clinical appointments over a 6-week period in 2009. Lists were compared to identify those individuals who were captured on each list and those who were recaptured by subsequent lists. Log-linear models were used to calculate the best fit and estimate the prevalence of blindness in the Western Australian population and extrapolated to a national prevalence of blindness in Australia.

Results 1771 legally blind people were identified on three separate lists. The best estimate of the prevalence of blindness in Western Australia was 3384 (95% CI 2947 to 3983) or 0.15% of the population of 2.25 million. Extrapolating to the national population (21.87 million) gave a prevalence of legal blindness of approximately 32 892 or 0.15%.

Conclusion Capture–recapture techniques can be used to determine the prevalence of blindness in whole populations. The calculated prevalence of blindness suggested that up to 30% of legally blind people may not be receiving available financial support and up to 60% were not accessing rehabilitation services.

  • Anatomy
  • anterior chamber
  • conjunctiva
  • cornea
  • diagnostic tests/investigation
  • drugs
  • epidemiology
  • infection
  • inflammation
  • lens and zonules
  • low vision aid
  • microbiology
  • neoplasia
  • ocular surface
  • optics and refraction
  • pathology
  • physiology
  • public health
  • rehabilitation
  • sclera and episclera
  • vision
  • wound healing

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  • Funding The Eye Surgery Foundation, Perth, Western Australia and Pfizer Australia provided unrestricted research grants with no role in the design or conduct of this research.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the human research ethics committees of Curtin University and participating hospitals.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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