The Victorian Vision Initiative – opportunities for Community Health

Preventing avoidable vision loss 

It is estimated that over 230,000 Victorians aged 40+ currently live with vision loss, a figure forecast to increase by 33% by 2030 unless action is taken.  

Fortunately, around 90% of this vision loss can be prevented by early identification and treatment. The most important thing to support that early intervention is regular eye testing of at risk populations.  

Some of the most common conditions are related to age-related eye changes and extended exposure to UV radiation which means that everyone over the age of 40 is at higher risk of vision loss. People who also have other risk factors are at particular risk. These include:  

  • People with a family history of sight threatening eye diseases such as glaucoma 
  • Smokers, with the risk of conditions like cataract and age-related macular disease significantly higher in this cohort 
  • People living with diabetes, particularly those who have had the condition for long periods and/or have poorly controlled blood glucose 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, who experience vision loss at some three times the rate of other Australians 
  • People in the community who experience additional barriers to accessing and/or paying for health services such as eye testing, glasses and treatment as this means that conditions that could have been prevented or managed early may not be seen until they are advanced, sometimes with irreversible vision loss.   

An important opportunity for community health 

Community health is uniquely placed to contribute to reducing avoidable vision loss in Victoria, as: 

  • many community health clients are in population groups at higher risk of such vision loss; 
  • community health services can play an important role in identifying and referring at risk populations who otherwise may not be able to access care, and as part of this, building effective referral pathways and communications between chronic disease management and eye care services (including providers of low cost eye care); 
  • community health staff have strong experience in preventive health work, and the embedding and integrating of this into broader models of care.  

The Vision Initiative can support community health to take up this opportunity to enhance the eye health and vision of Victorians. Practical examples of this include: 

  • Providing free tailored training and information sessions for staff, to build their knowledge and confidence around appropriate identification, management and referral of patients who may be experiencing – or at risk of – vision loss 
  • Providing free information resources for both staff and clients about eye health and vision, with the public information available in 11 languages 
  • Working with community health and eye care partners to strengthen local referral pathways to care 
  • Promoting the community health service’s role in this area through targeted local promotions and awareness raising activities to at risk populations 

For further information, please contact vision.initiative@vision2020australia.org.au