Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to develop diabetes than non-Indigenous people, placing them at greater risk of vision loss and blindness from diabetic retinopathy (DR). However, almost all severe vision loss and blindness from DR can be prevented if people with diabetes manage their condition and receive regular eye checks and appropriate treatment when needed.
Delivering eye care in remote Indigenous communities poses particular challenges, but primary health care providers can help prevent severe vision loss from DR among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes by: supporting patients to manage their diabetes; conducting or referring patients for yearly eye checks; referring patients for specialist eye care if DR is suspected; and supporting them to complete treatment.
Half of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes don’t receive yearly eye checks, and a quarter have never have had one; however, there is good news. The number of people receiving annual eye checks appears to be increasing, and annual screening for DR by primary health care services is now supported through Medicare. Equipment and training is also being rolled out to more than 100 clinics delivering eye care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. (covered in Partyline #59 http://ruralhealth.org.au/partyline/article/building-capacity-primary-eye-care-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-health-services and http://ruralhealth.org.au/partyline/article/online-training-supports-diabetic-retinopathy-screening-primary-health-care)
Increasing the uptake of retinal screening promises improvements in eye health.
The Australian Indigenous HeathInfoNet and The Fred Hollows Foundation have teamed up to develop evidence-based online multimedia resources to support primary health care staff conducting retinal screening for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes.
The resources are available online in multiple formats to meet the varied information needs of health care providers and educators across the country. They include a factsheet, an infographic, a short video and a PowerPoint presentation.
The DR resources can be found on the HealthInfoNet’s Eye health web resource: www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/other-health-conditions/eyeworkers/diabetic-retinopathy/key-facts
The HealthInfoNet and the Fred Hollows Foundation are working to develop further online resources to support the delivery of eye care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These will include webinars, audio files and an eBook.
View the DR resources at
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The HealthInfoNet is currently running an online national survey seeking users' feedback on the eye health web resource. The survey closes on 30 November 2017. To participate go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/6JFZZFF