Low and middle income countries account for approximately 75% of the global diabetes burden. Approximately 1.7 million Australians are estimated to be living with diabetes.
The most common complication of diabetes is Diabetic Retinopathy. Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working age Australians.
There are currently 45 million people with vision-threatening Diabetic Retinopathy which is expected to increase to 70 million by the year 2040.
Source: IAPB Vision Atlas
Sight For All is addressing this global health crisis in a variety of ways.
In Australia, we have an ongoing public awareness initiative in Aboriginal communities utilising a series of educational videos including 'Sid's Bad Sugar' and 'Eyes by Caper'. We are also releasing a series of commercials about the impact of blindness, including 'Neill', an incredibly moving 30-second piece that features a man who suddenly went blind at the age of 50 due to neglect of his diabetes.
The prevalence of sight-threatening Diabetic Retinopathy is higher in Asian populations. Many low and middle income countries are ill-equipped to properly identify and manage this blinding complication. Studies in rural Asia have demonstrated that as few as 10% of people with Diabetic Retinopathy have been diagnosed and treated.
In 2015, a pilot study was implemented in Myanmar to determine the prevalence of Diabetic Retinopathy among diabetic patients. This study reported that 33% of participants had evidence of vision-threatening disease.
Through Sight For All's sustainable 'teach a man to fish' teaching model, we have trained retinal specialists in Lao, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka and we are currently training two doctors in Cambodia. To support this teaching, we have provided diagnostic and surgical equipment including indirect ophthalmoscopes, OCT machines, surgical microscopes and instruments, vitrectors and retinal lasers, in order to establish Retinal Units in major teaching institutions in each of these countries.
In 2017, Sight For All commenced our Upskilling of Eye Health Workers and Infrastructure project in 25 Secondary (regional) Eye Centres in Myanmar. This project, funded by the Australian Government's Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), involves the provision of indirect ophthalmoscopes (with lenses) and training in the diagnosis and treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy. This project has continued in 2018 with the involvement of a further 14 Secondary Eye Centres.
The Secondary Eye Centre Project identified a need for five regional centres to be provided with further equipment and training to more effectively treat Diabetic Retinopathy. The centres in Pathein, Myeik, Pyay, Lashio and Mawlamyine are all being provided with new Ellex Solitaire lasers (with slit lamp and laser delivery system) and laser lenses. Retinal specialists from Australia travel to Myanmar to train the local specialists in the use of the equipment, subsequently ensuring that they have the expertise and equipment to diagnose, monitor and treat patients with Diabetic Retinopathy. This project will continue to other centres in Myanmar and Cambodia. A similar project was undertaken in Lao in 2016, where lasers and training were provided to regional eye centres in Luang Prabang, Champasak, Savannahket.
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