This month, Diabetes Australia’s KeepSight team shares an update on a project aiming to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples with diabetes. The project was made possible thanks to Specsavers’ funding of KeepSight.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost four times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes or pre-diabetes and are three times more likely to experience vision loss. On top of this, in recent years many Australians disengaged from their routine diabetes and health care management plans due to social distancing, fear of exposure to COVID-19, interrupted routines and a focus on other priorities.

For this reason, in 2022, KeepSight worked to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having regular eye checks through a targeted marketing campaign in partnership with Carbal Medical Service in south-east Queensland.

The campaign featured artwork by Aboriginal artist Keisha Leon and was designed to raise awareness and encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes in the Warwick and Toowoomba area of Queensland to have their eyes checked.

Carbal and Diabetes Australia worked together to develop all elements of the campaign, to ensure the message was culturally appropriate and would resonate with the audience. All channels that were used were also decided in consultation to ensure cut through with Carbals’ patients.

Print collateral and merchandise was distributed to support the campaign – posters, banners, social media tiles, antibacterial wipes (the campaign was released during the depth of Covid-19) and Keisha designed a polo shirt to give to those who had their eyes checked. The t-shirt was also worn by Carbal staff as a way of promoting the campaign and as a non-threatening, conversation starter.

Carbal’s Aboriginal Health Workers educated the communities about the importance of regular diabetes eye checks and the benefits of KeepSight during appointments with Carbal patients. KeepSight briefing packs and Aboriginal health worker training sessions were undertaken to support consistent key messaging about the program, diabetes and eye health.

Social media communications about the Carbal Diabetes Australia diabetes eye check promotion campaign reached 219,649 people and generated 220 link clicks and a Diabetes Australia Facebook Live Q&A featuring an Aboriginal Health Worker from Carbal reached more than 4,600 people.

Results from the pilot indicated that more than three times as many Carbal patients with diabetes booked a retinal photography check in the pilot months (an average of 11 checks per month compared to an average of three checks a month) demonstrating that a concerted and targeted effort to engage directly with patients had a significant impact on the number of people having checks.

KeepSight continues to use the learnings from this pilot to inform future engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in other communities.