Improving eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes

  • Retinal camera training

Retinal camera training. Photo: Brien Holden Vision Institute

The Brien Holden Vision Institute is focused on ensuring better equality in eye care for all Australians.

Supporting this focus, the Institute is co-leading a program funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, which aims to increase rates of annual retinal examinations for people with diabetes through the installation of retinal cameras in health facilities that provide services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A large component of the program is the training being provided at the 105 sites across Australia where the retinal cameras are being installed. Through a consortium with four other organisations, the program commenced roll out in August 2017 and, to date, 140 health care workers have been trained across 31 sites in four states and territories, namely Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

Every primary health care service receiving a retinal camera is provided with a comprehensive training package. The consortium provides training on how to operate the cameras and associated skills to Aboriginal Health Workers, nurses, general practitioners and any other relevant personnel using the camera, enabling them to utilise the new Medicare Benefits Schedule item numbers supporting annual screening for diabetic retinopathy.

The retinal camera training consists of a two-hour online course provided by the Institute and a one-day face-to-face course provided by Consortium members plus a local co-trainer. Local health community engagement is a key principle and translates as direct engagement onsite to ensure retinal photography complements the existing eye care and primary health care services in each region targeted.

Feedback from a recent course evaluation is being used to inform and identify areas needing further development or improvement.

Christina Ly, Institute Education Officer who provides the retinal camera training, explained the evaluation findings have proven very positive.

“We found that all participants attending the course were satisfied and they felt it met their expectations. Most thought it increased their confidence and abilities and we found that nearly 99 per cent of participants agreed that the course was challenging and interesting,” she said.

The majority of course participants were female (78.2 per cent) and over 40 per cent of the participants identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. The most common role was nurses (36.1 per cent), followed by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander health workers (17.3 per cent) and general practitioners (14.3 per cent). The majority of participants had not attended previous training or courses on diabetes and the eye, retinal photography, or measuring visual acuity.

The Institute, as part of the program Consortium, continues to roll the program out across the remaining 74 sites across Australia, aiming to complete stages two and three by the end of 2019.

The Consortium consists of five organisations co-led by Brien Holden Vision Institute and the Australian College of Optometry, working with the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, Centre for Eye Health, and Optometry Australia.

For more information on the progress of the Provision of Eye Health Equipment and Training program, please visit:

We reported on the commencement of the program in Partyline #59 (June 2017)  and in Partyline # 61 (November 2017) on training resources developed by the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet.


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