The Fred Hollows Foundation is bringing global attention to the emerging crisis of diabetic retinopathy (DR) through leading the Global DR Advocacy Initiative – a group of world leading diabetes and eye health experts including the World Health Organisation.

The group has released a first of its kind report that stresses the need for integrating eye health care and diabetes care to address the dramatic rise of diabetic retinopathy – the leading cause of vision loss in working age adults worldwide.

Diabetes: A Global Epidemic

Diabetes currently affects 420 million people, 45 million of whom are impacted by vision threatening diabetic retinopathy (DR), a complication of the disease.

That number is expected to skyrocket to 70 million by 2040 as the global incidence of diabetes increases exponentially.

Yet eye health and diabetes continue to be treated separately.

“We know that with appropriately timed treatment, up to 98 per cent of blindness from DR can be prevented but many people with diabetes do not currently undergo regular eye examinations because they, as well as many health professionals, are unaware that diabetes can cause vision loss and irreversible blindness,” said Ian Wishart, CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation.


Integrated Care for Diabetes and Eye Health: A Global Compendium of Good Practice

The Integrated care for diabetes and eye health: A global compendium of good practice report, calls for a coordinated approach among diabetes, primary, secondary and tertiary health care providers to jointly address the complications of DR.

The report also recommends integrating DR policies, guidelines and training into all relevant national health policies and guidelines.
With appropriately timed treatment, up to 98 per cent of blindness from DR can be prevented but many people with diabetes do not currently undergo regular eye examinations...

- Ian Wishart, CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation

“The intended outcome is that decision makers and practitioners will be able to build on the findings and learnings presented in this report to implement their own strategic and tactical approaches to addressing the challenges of blindness and vision loss from diabetes,” Mr Wishart said.

“We will need to make significant strategic and operational changes to existing healthcare systems if we are to fully integrate diabetes and eye health care, but it is crucial that we develop sustainable solutions if we are to reduce vision loss from DR globally.

“Given the rising incidence of this largely avoidable cause of vision loss, there must be a focus on addressing DR by the international eye health and diabetes communities.

The report is a multi-agency advocacy project undertaken by leading non-government agencies in the diabetes and eye health sectors including: The Fred Hollows Foundation; Helen Keller International; The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness; International Council of Ophthalmology; International Diabetes Federation; Lions Clubs International Foundation; Orbis International; Sightsavers International; The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust; World Council of Optometry; and in association with the World Health Organisation.

Cover photo credit: FHF NZ

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