New pilot to accelerate the fight against blindness caused by Type 1 diabetes

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is delighted to be building on its work with the Public Health Foundation of India to prevent blindness in people with Type 1 diabetes in India, thanks to a $1.25m donation by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Diabetes, which has now reached epidemic levels, brings with it the devastating threat of vision loss and irreversible blindness. Of the estimated 385 million people diagnosed with diabetes globally, 5% of whom suffer from type 1 diabetes, over 65 million live in India. The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Diabetic Retinopathy Initiative is working to develop and integrate services for the detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy into government systems in India, to prevent people from losing their sight as a result of the disease.

Type 1 diabetes develops most commonly in children and adolescents. Globally, there are estimated to be 500,000 children with Type 1 diabetes below the age of 15 years. The complications resulting from this form of the disease do not only present themselves much earlier, but progress much faster.

The standard of care received by the vast majority of children and adults living with Type 1 diabetes is currently inadequate. Lack of education about the disease and its management and access to insulin are major issues in some developing countries.

The Diabetic Retinopathy Initiative, will undertake a two-year pilot project in Delhi with the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences and in Chennai with Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialty Centre to specifically address the needs of people with Type 1 diabetes and their families.

Over two years, the pilot which aims to reduce the prevalence of blindness caused by Type 1 diabetes will:

  • Work with the Ministry of Health to ensure that Type 1 diabetes and its complications are addressed, embedded into and funded by the national health system
  • Work with experts to develop guidelines to fully brief physicians about the specific needs of people with Type 1 diabetes
  • Establish a network of peer groups for those affected by Type 1 diabetes and their family members, to provide support on issues such as self-management, nutrition, coping strategies and lifestyle modification
  • Provide training and capacity building to service providers regarding the prevention, detection and management of the complications of diabetic retinopathy in people with Type 1 diabetes
  • Link the services required by people with Type 1 diabetes, from screening to treatment and management, to ensure high-quality, and accessible services are provided.

The findings from these two pilots will inform future work to tackle type 1 diabetes across India and throughout the Commonwealth.

Chief Executive of the Trust, Dr Astrid Bonfield CBE said,

The Trust is incredibly grateful to The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust for their generous support towards our Diabetic Retinopathy Initiative. There is a worrying lack of support for the unique needs of people with Type 1 diabetes in many countries in the Commonwealth, and as a result people are needlessly losing their sight. By increasing the support available, building the capacity of health care providers, and ensuring the needs of people with Type 1 diabetes are met by the national health system, the Trust hopes to make significant progress towards the control of vision loss from Type 1 diabetes.