Hollows camera shines a light on outback blindness

The Fred Hollows Foundation is providing a second Diabetic Retinopathy Scanner (DRS) to Sunrise Health Service, the Katherine-based Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, to boost services addressing avoidable blindness in the region.

The camera will be operated by trained Aboriginal community health staff.

Health care teams from Sunrise will take the camera on community outreach visits from Manyallaluk to Bullman, and on the bottom road from Mataranka to Ngukurr, meaning community members won’t have to make the long journey to town.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely to have diabetes than other Australians.

Manager of the Indigenous Australia Program at The Fred Hollows Foundation, Jaki Adams-Barton, said the DRS camera would improve screening and treatment for people at risk of losing their sight from diabetes.

“Without the right equipment, our health practitioners can’t take the steps to end avoidable blindness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities,” Ms Adams-Barton said.

“Having diabetes-specific eye health equipment will help people manage their diabetes effectively and ensure timely and adequate treatment is available,” she said.

The DRS camera is easy to operate but requires specialised training in capturing retinal images and grading diabetic eye disease. Brien Holden Vision Institute is providing training at Katherine for more than 15 community health practitioners who travel to remote communities in the Jawoyn region.

Dale Campbell, CEO of Sunrise Health Service, said the training was essential to ensure the camera is used effectively for crucial diabetic retinopathy tests in remote communities.

“Ninety-eight per cent of vision loss from diabetes is preventable with early detection and treatment,” Mr Campbell said. “Having this camera available at Sunrise Health Service will put the tools in the hands of our chronic disease management team who are travelling to communities regularly. It’s an effective way to bring eye health into the primary healthcare system,” he said.

Wendy Caccetta

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