Public health

New campaign urges diabetes patients to keep sight of eye tests

A campaign to limit preventable blindness wants diabetes patients – and their health professionals – to sign up to a new national diabetes eye-screening program.

The  Keepsight program centres around a website that will send registered patients alerts to encourage them to have diabetes eye checks as well “important eye health information”.

Diabetes Australia estimates close to half of the 1.3 million people diagnosed with diabetes – some 630,000 people – risk vision loss or blindness because they aren’t having regular eye checks.

CEO Professor Greg Johnson said the disease was a leading cause of preventable blindness and most vision loss was preventable with regular Medicare-funded diabetes eye checks.

But with the many complexities around diabetes and the need for multiple diabetes-related health checks, something like eye testing could easily get overlooked.

“Many people with diabetes are not even aware they need to have their eyes checked,” he said.

Once patients are registered with KeepSight they receive reminders and prompts to have regular diabetes eye checks.

Over and above the website, the national campaign – funded by the Australian Government, Specsavers, and pharma companies Bayer and Novartis – will use television, radio, and digital advertising.

It will also particularly target western Sydney, the Sunshine Coast and south-east Melbourne, all regions with high rates of diabetes.

And Diabetes Australia stressed it wanted health professionals also to register with KeepSight as well “to help their patients”.

The initiative was “the missing link in Australia’s diabetes health system” according to Professor Peter van Wijngaarden, an ophthalmologist and Deputy Director of the Centre for Eye Research Australia.

A similar eye check program in the UK had resulted in diabetes no longer being the leading cause of blindness in working age adults, he noted.

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