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Partnership to establish national diabetic eye screening program

18/07/2018By Matthew Woodley
Diabetes Australia (DA) has partnered with the Federal Government and a number of eyecare organisations to establish a national diabetes eye screening program.

The Preserve Sight program is an Australian-first initiative that will aim to enable the early detection and treatment of diabetes, in order to protect the sight of more than 1.2 million Australians living with the disease. Vision 2020 Australia, Specsavers and Oculo have also partnered with DA to help establish the program, while it will engage with other leading eyecare organisations such as the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), RANZCO and Optometry Australia (OA).

The program will establish a national electronic eye health record, along with an alert system to encourage eye examinations for people registered on the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS). According to the government, the program will help alert around 630,000 Australians with diabetes over the next five years, who are currently foregoing recommended eye checks.

“There are around 100,000 people with vision threatening diabetic retinopathy and the number of people will double by 2030. This program will provide timely identification and intervention to protect the sight of Australians with diabetes and prevent their vision loss,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

“This is great news for the eye health sector and we are confident that it will dramatically increase the number of people with diabetes who are having their eyes checked.”
Peter Larsen, Specsavers

To help facilitate the program, the government has allocated $1 million – a contribution that has been matched by Specsavers Australia.

However, while the government has only confirmed funding for the first year, the eyecare chain has already committed to contributing $1 million annually for the next five years to help support its implementation and to improve awareness about the importance of regular eye checks.

“This is great news for the eye health sector and we are confident that it will dramatically increase the number of people with diabetes who are having their eyes checked in the recommended time frames,” Specsavers optometry director Mr Peter Larsen said.

“Specsavers looks forward to working with Diabetes Australia on proactive, targeted communications that encourage people to have timely eye checks to assist with early detection of problems and enable early treatment to save sight.”

According to OA CEO Ms Lyn Brodie, the program’s intent is to engage all optometry service providers across the nation and create stronger e-health linkages between GPs and other healthcare providers and optometrists.

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Despite improved treatments for diabetic eye disease, it still costs the Australian economy around $2 billion annually.

RANZCO president Associate Professor Mark Daniell said the major challenge to preventing vision loss has been patients presenting too late for treatment.

“The new national diabetes eye screening program is an excellent initiative by chasing up patients who have not been screened. This initiative aligns with RANZCO’s collaborative care guidelines, which provide clear standards of care for diabetic retinopathy,” he said.

While more than 1.25 million people have been diagnosed and registered on the NDSS, an estimated 500,000 Australians with type 2 diabetes are still undiagnosed.

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