Diabetic Retinopathy Initiative Expands to Samoa and Tonga

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is delighted that its Diabetic Retinopathy Initiative has been extended in the Pacific to carry out work in Samoa and Tonga, in addition to the work already taking place in Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Globally, diabetes has reached epidemic levels and, because of this, diabetic retinopathy – a complication of diabetes - is predicted to become the leading cause of blindness around the world.

Over the past year, the Trust has been working with the Fred Hollows Foundation, Governments and local partners in the Pacific to focus on strengthening the national health systems and provide access to high quality diabetic eye care to those who need it. As part of our Diabetic Retinopathy Initiative in the Pacific we have:

-   trained community health workers to identify and refer people at risk of diabetic retinopathy

-   supported the development of guidelines and training modules for diabetes physicians to ensure that eye care is incorporated into their care

-   begun to develop screening and treatment programmes for people at risk of diabetic retinopathy

The Pacific Islands have small populations yet large geographical distances between the islands creating a big challenge for Ministries of Health in delivering specialist health services such as ophthalmology. Our extended work in this region will aim to integrate training programmes, data systems, referral systems, the provision of equipment and the diabetic eye care response into the health systems to cope with the ongoing rise of the disease.

On the announcement of the extension of our Diabetic Retinopathy Initiative in the Pacific, Dr Andrew Cooper, Director of Programmes, at The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust said:

We are delighted to extend our diabetic retinopathy work to Samoa and Tonga, which will build on the success of the Commonwealth countries in which we currently work. By helping to bring together health professionals and governments, we hope to achieve our goal to create practical, effective and replicable models of care that can be used to prevent diabetic retinopathy throughout the Commonwealth by 2019.