The Federal Government has recommitted $1.5 million to the KeepSight diabetes eye screening program.
Health Minister Mr Greg Hunt made the announcent on Sunday to mark the beginning of National Diabetes Week. The funding is in addition to an initial $1 million government grant announced at the project’s launch last October, as well as an annual $1 million commitment from Specsavers for the next five years.
Thousands of eyecare professionals have registered with KeepSight, which has been described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to significantly reduce the rate of diabetes-related vision loss and blindness across Australia.
Following similar overseas models, eyecare providers and patients are encouraged to subscribe to the KeepSight database, which regularly rinds patients for diabetes eye examinations. Approximately 1.3 million Australians have the condition, but it is thought half are not getting the recommended number of eye examinations. Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson told Insight the ongoing funding commitment for KeepSight was part of a broader $2.8 million package for diabetes complication prevention initiatives this week.
“KeepSight has the potential to transform the number of people with diabetes having regular diabetes eye checks and reduce the incidence of vision loss and blindness caused by diabetes,” he said.
“It’s critical the diabetes and eyecare sectors work together to address this major gap in eye disease prevention for people with diabetes in this country. With many people not having regular diabetes checks it means eye damage is often identified too late – when treatment is less effective and more costly.”
Specsavers optometry director Mr Peter Larsen said the combined Specsavers and government funding helps support Diabetes Australia to communicate the importance of regular, Medicare-funded eye tests for diabetics.
“From our perspective at Specsavers, we’re already seeing a dramatic increase in patients with diabetes signed up to the KeepSight portal. We will share some specific figures on how this is progressing at the Specsavers Clinical Conference in Melbourne on 7-8 September,” he said.
Centre for Eye Research Australia deputy director Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden, who was on the KeepSight founding steering committee, also welcomed the government’s commitment.
“Similar programs have been extrely effective reducing avoidable blindness caused by diabetes in the UK and we hope to ulate those results in Australia,” he said.