National program to minimise diabetes-related blindness

National program to minimise diabetes-related blindness

Improving Health and Wellbeing

A new health initiative has the potential to lower the risk of vision loss for 1.1 million Australians living with type 2 diabetes.

This year the Federal Government announced funding for ‘KeepSight‘, a national diabetic retinopathy (DR) screening program administered by Diabetes Australia and Vision 2020 Australia. An initiative of a Deakin University researcher has the potential to support the ‘KeepSight’ program and reduce the risk of blindness for people with diabetes across Australia.

As part of her PhD research program, which was funded by Vision 2020 Australia, Dr Amelia J Lake, a Research Fellow with The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes* used best-practice processes to develop an urgently-needed health behaviour intervention for young adults with type 2 diabetes. The intervention was designed to promote retinal screening for members of this priority population, who are at increased risk of vision loss and blindness from DR.

“Vision loss from diabetic retinopathy is a common, diabetes-related complication and the leading cause of blindness for working-age adults worldwide.”
Dr Amelia J Lake Research Fellow with The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD)

“Young adults aged 18-39 years, with type 2 diabetes, are a growing demographic who are particularly at risk of DR due to long diabetes duration and a range of other factors,” Dr Lake explained. “As such, they are the priority group for the targeted intervention.”

The majority of vision loss from DR is preventable and Dr Lake’s research showed that, until now, in Australia retinal screening has not been adequately promoted to this group. The risk of vision loss can be significantly reduced if the condition is detected early and appropriate treatment is administered promptly.

“Early DR has no symptoms and retinal screening is the proven clinical pathway to DR detection,” Dr Lake said.

All people living with diabetes are at risk of DR, yet one in five adults over 50 years of age are not getting regular eye examinations. This increases to one in two for young adults with type 2 diabetes, she explained.

Dr Lake’s intervention has been recognised internationally. In September, it was one of just 17 case studies featured in ‘Integrated care for diabetes and eye health: A global compendium of good practice,’ a publication endorsed by the World Health Organisation. Dr Lake has recently accepted an invitation to present her research at the Royal Society of Medicine in London in April 2019. The United Kingdom has had a national DR screening program since 2003 and, as a result, DR is no longer the leading cause of blindness and vision loss for working age adults. However, they recognise that uptake of the program can still be improved and are now looking to behavioural scientists like Dr Lake for the answers.

* The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD) was established in 2010 as a partnership for better health between Diabetes Victoria and Deakin.


Published by Deakin Research on 18 December 2018