The recent launch of the KeepSight national diabetes eye screening program marks a significant step in protecting the vision of the 1.2 million Australians living with diabetes.

Currently, more than 600,000 Australians with diabetes do not engage in regular eye health checks and, as a consequence, are putting themselves at significant risk of developing sight-threatening retinal disease.

The KeepSight initiative – which is being developed by Specsavers, Diabetes Australia and the Australian Government in conjunction with Vision 2020 and the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) – will communicate directly with those registered with the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS), using a system of reminders and alerts to ensure they are receiving the right checks at the right time.

As technology partner, software provider Oculo has received funding to facilitate this system by building and supporting a direct link between its electronic referral platform and the NDSS’ database, which manages and holds the health data for the 1.2 million Australians living with diabetes. The ultimate aim of the KeepSight initiative is to eliminate avoidable vision loss for people with diabetes.

Following the July 2018 announcement that both Specsavers and the Australian Government would be committing funds to the project, the KeepSight initiative was formally launched on 15 October at Parliament House in Canberra. The event was attended by the eye health professions, the diabetes sector and government, and involved a series of short speeches from key stakeholders in the KeepSight project, with Diabetes Australia CEO Greg Johnson acting as Master of Ceremonies.

Australian Minister for Health Greg Hunt welcomed the KeepSight project, hailing the initiative as a great example of combined public / private investment. He specifically thanked Specsavers for its commitment of $1 million a year for five years towards the program.

Following the Minister’s speech, Specsavers Australia & New Zealand Optometry Director Peter Larsen took to the stage to explain why Specsavers was committing such a large sum of money, noting that the $5 million commitment aligned directly with Specsavers’ ‘Transforming eye health’ mission.

“We know that in 98% of cases, vision loss from diabetic eye disease is entirely avoidable,” Peter stated. “However, as a nation, we are under-indexing on this number purely and simply because people with diabetes are not receiving clear and regular direct messages about when their next eye exam is due. As a group, we [Specsavers] are committed to turning the situation around and eliminating diabetes-related sight loss.”

Other speakers included Peter van Wijngaarden, acting CEO of CERA; a number of Parliamentary eye health sponsors; and independent optometrist Dr Amira Howari, who was able to speak about diabetic eye disease as both an eye health professional and as someone living with type one diabetes.

Additional reports on the KeepSight launch can be found on Mivison and Insight.