The IDEAS Initiative is bringing world class facilities to rural and remote communities in an effort to substantially reduce blindness and visual impairment amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with diabetes.
The IDEAS Van is a mobile eye health clinic that screens, treats and helps prevent blindness due to diabetes.
Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia; increasing at a faster rate than heart disease and cancer. Around 1.7 million currently Australians have diabetes and this is forecast to reach 2 million by 2025 – or 7% of the population. In Queensland more than 192,00 people have diabetes and 60 more are diagnosed each day. A further 500,000 are estimated to be undiagnosed or be at risk of developing the condition.
The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with diabetes is over eight times higher than other Australians. Those living in remote areas are most at risk, with twice the rate of diabetes as Indigenous people living in other areas.
Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Australia. Around one third of Australians with diabetes have some form of eye disease. Most of these have diabetic retinopathy but diabetes can also cause glaucoma and cataracts.
Once again, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bear a disproportionate burden of diabetes-related eye disease. It affects Indigenous people at earlier stages in the disease and over the age of 40. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have 3 times the rate of blindness of other Australians and 3 times the rate of vision loss.
Fortunately, almost all diabetic eye disease is preventable or treatable. However, for those living in rural and remote communities there are many barriers to accessing the eye health services they need to reduce the risk of blindness. The IDEAS van brings world-class screening and treatment facilities to rural Australia, avoiding the need for patients to travel to hospitals far from home. In addition to visiting state health facilities, the van provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with services in the familiar cultural surroundings of Community Controlled Health Services.