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Getting Australians thinking about Glaucoma

05/03/2019By Callum Glennen
With the 8th World Glaucoma Congress right around the corner, CALLUM GLENNEN reports Glaucoma Australia is preparing a wealth of initiatives to improve national understanding of the condition.

With Melbourne hosting the 8th World Glaucoma Congress (WGC), Australia will welcome the world’s leading glaucoma researchers and ophthalmologists. The event will undoubtedly provide a platform for collaboration among researchers and clinicians, but will also be a chance to improve understanding of the disease among the Australian public.

Glaucoma Australia (GA) CEO Mrs Annie Gibbins said her organisation is preparing to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the WGC, and use the event to screen, educate and connect with more glaucoma patients and their families.

“It’s a huge opportunity to increase support for people with glaucoma, and also to further promote our risk awareness campaign,” Gibbins said. “To have a world congress come to Australia is very exciting.”

Paramount to GA’s campaign around the WGC is reaching both people who have glaucoma, and those who are at a high risk of developing the disease.

The peak of GA’s involvement in the event will be a patient symposium it will host on the morning of the first day of the Congress. Glaucoma patients who attend will hear from some of Australia’s most prolific experts, including clinical professor Ivan Goldberg, clinical associate professor Paul Healey and Dr Simon Skalicky.

"It’s a huge opportunity to increase support for people with glaucoma, and also to further promote our risk awareness campaign."
Annie Gibbins, CEO of Glaucoma Australia

A Vision Australia representative will speak about apps, aids, and other support systems under development, and GA president Mr Ron Spithill will hold a presentation about the organisation.

Gibbins said the patient symposium would also be an opportunity for GA to reach the relatives of people with the disease, given genetics has proven to be a key factor in developing glaucoma. The organisation is asking symposium attendees with glaucoma to bring a family member so they can receive a free risk screen for the condition.

“We’re aiming to test 100 relatives of people with glaucoma prior to the symposium talk,” Gibbins said.

The free risk screenings will use a number of new technologies, such as iPads for field of vision tests and the Icare Home Tonometer for pressure tests.

“It’s a fabulous opportunity to use some new technologies on patients to assess their risk, and also link this to the Glaucoma Australia risk calculator results as well,” Gibbins said. “We’ll be able to then potentially do some research on that information after the event.”

Designs for Vision

Outside of the patient symposium, Gibbins will also be presenting to WGC attendees on how organisations can do more to reach the families of people with glaucoma and increase awareness of the disease’s genetic factor.

A challenge associated with events like the WGC is maintaining the burst of momentum they generate locally. To ensure the event has a lasting impact, Gibbins said GA would use the opportunity to establish and strengthen its existing glaucoma support groups.

Last year GA established Facebook support groups in every state. Gibbins hopes the WGC will be an opportunity for these group members to meet face-to-face, particularly those in Victoria, and develop stronger personal connections.

“It will be really great for local patients to meet and support each other and for the Glaucoma Australia team who provide ongoing support to them throughout their patient journey. Hopefully we’ll be able to use the opportunity to video people on their experience with glaucoma, and that will help us create more resources for the year ahead.”

As well as increasing attendance to the patient symposium, GA is preparing for World Glaucoma Week, which runs from 10 – 16 March, 2019. Gibbins said events would include a large public screening by OPSM in the Sydney CBD, strong instore risk awareness marketing and a call to action to get tested for glaucoma.

“To have World Glaucoma Week and the World Glaucoma Congress in the same month will provide many sight saving opportunities as we encourage early detection, improve treatment adherence and support people with glaucoma on an ongoing basis.”

AFT Pharmaceuticals

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