Diabetes Australia campaigns to end preventable diabetes-related blindness for First Nations people

Diabetes Australia is partnering with Carbal Medical Services (Carbal), a Toowoomba and Warwick based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisation, to reduce diabetes-related vision loss and blindness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the Darling Downs.

Diabetes is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness but only about 50% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes are having their eyes checked within recommended timeframes.

The Diabetes Australia – Carbal partnership involves the promotion of KeepSight, an eye check reminder program run by Diabetes Australia which encourages people with diabetes to have regular eye checks. The program will use locally developed, culturally appropriate resources and information.

Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said he was pleased to be working with Carbal to deliver diabetes eye health messages to First Nations people in the region.

“Every person with diabetes is at risk of eye damage, but most vision loss can be prevented with regular diabetes eye checks, early detection and early treatment,” Professor Johnson said.

“But you can’t wait for signs or symptoms of eye problems because by the time symptoms occur the damage is done and treatments are less effective. That is why regular diabetes eye checks are so important – so that any problems can be found early, before the damage is significant, and when treatment is easier and more effective.

“Good vision is not always an indicator that everything is okay. Regular and early diabetes eye checks – along with managing your diabetes every day – are the best ways to prevent vision loss.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost four times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to be living with diabetes. Improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a priority for Diabetes Australia, which is why the organisation has joined forces with Carbal for the local delivery of KeepSight on the Darling Downs.

Carbal Medical Services’ CEO Brian Hewitt said a partnership with Diabetes Australia would support improved eye health in First Nations people with diabetes across the region.

“Providing the best holistic care that we can means working across a range of health initiatives and this one is a great partnership that will help our mob to manage their diabetes eye health,” Mr Hewitt said.

“Eye health may not typically be the first diabetes related problem that people accessing our services think they need to consider.

Diabetes eye checks can get overlooked easily when there are so many other aspects to managing our diabetes and health – but the good news is that vision loss from diabetes is preventable if acted on early.

“Regular checks are possibly the most important thing people can do to keep their eyes in good health.

“There’s no need for a referral, visits to an optometrist are generally bulk-billed, and the diabetes eye check only takes about 30 minutes.

“We are encouraging all of our patients with diabetes to sign up to KeepSight so that they get the necessary diabetes eye checks at the right time.

“People can join up when they are at the clinic, or online at www.keepsight.org.au or by going to an optometrist and having a diabetes eye check and asking the optometrist to register them. Already more than 170,000 Australians with diabetes have joined KeepSight.”

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