The Fred Hollows Foundation works to restore sight to people who are needlessly blind or vision impaired. This work includes providing screening services, treatment, and education to those with Diabetic Retinopathy.

The burden of diabetes is rapidly increasing. By 2045, an estimated 629 million people will have diabetes, 75% of them in low and middle income countries. About a third of people will experience diabetic retinopathy (DR). This is a global problem that The Foundation with its partners is working to address.

Watch this video on diabetic retinopathy and the growing need for support.

Vision loss from DR can be prevented only with a full treatment course, but completion rates are unacceptably low. We need to learn more about how to keep people in treatment.

The Fred Hollows Foundation is working on many projects to combat the prevalence of DR and the growing rate of the disease.

In 2021 The Foundation delivered:

  • 8,091 Diabetic Retinopathy treatments including
    • 3,416 treatments in South Asia and the Middle East and
    • 2,295 in Australasia.

CASE STUDY: Improving Access and Efficiency in DR Treatment

Diabetic Retinopathy is a significant complication of diabetes, with around one third of people with diabetes developing some form of retinopathy. It is a growing cause of blindness and vision impairment, and the only eye condition for which overall prevalence has increased significantly since 1990. DR is one of The Foundation’s four priority eye conditions.

In 2021, we undertook a review of our approach to DR programming to identify ways we could drive greater impact. DR work is very costly relative to each patient served, so we aim to seek the most cost-effective and efficient ways to deliver results.

Onset of DR can be prevented be adequately managing diabetes in individuals, improving efficiencies in DR screening, and managing and creating an environment that enables programs to be implemented sustainably.

As a result of the review, we are designing a multi-country program aimed to test interventions to enhance DR treatment compliance among patients. The first phase will focus on Pakistan, Nepal, Palestine, China and The Pacific.

In addition, in partnership with the CSIRO, we have started a project to explore how artificial intelligence technology can be integrated into the DR care pathway in Vietnam, to reduce the cost of screening and increase population coverage of screening and treatment. This means using telehealth to conduct consultations assisted by an in-person eye health assistant.

Photo: St. John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital, Palestine, who focuses on delivering DR treatment and supporting eye health nurses trained in DR treatment and screening.

©St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital.