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Mobile Eye Screening Service Launched

7 October 2004

Mobile Eye Screening Service Launched

A mobile eye screening service for people with diabetes is being launched across North Shore, Rodney and Waitakere districts will screen around 6000 people each year for a condition which can cause blindness.

The service, being launched on Monday October 11, is a collaboration between the Waitemata District Health Board (DHB) and Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) in the region.
Two cameras valued at around $65,000 each will screen around 120 people a day for retinopathy, which affects the eyesight and, if left untreated, can cause blindness.

One camera, funded by The Lion Foundation, will operate in the North Shore and Rodney districts, while another camera, funded by SKYCITY Community Trust Auckland will be used in West Auckland. The service is being hosted by HealthWEST PHO in the West and North Harbour PHO in the North.

Public Health Physician Dr Celia Palmer, who has overseen the project, says the fully-integrated diabetes eye screening service across primary (community/GP-based) care and secondary (hospital) care is a first in New Zealand.

“Establishing the service this soon would not have been possible without this unique partnership with our sponsors and the commitment of the organisations involved. Community based eye screening is part of a major diabetes project being undertaken by the Waitemata District Health Board and PHOs.”

Ministry of Health figures suggest there are around 12,000 people in the district with diabetes. Dr Palmer says local figures suggest this might be as high as 15,000, with about 800 new people diagnosed each year.

The project will ultimately result in around 80 per cent of people with Type 2 diabetes receiving their checks and ongoing care in a community setting, rather than attending North Shore Hospital, she says.

Taking diabetes eye screening to rural and hard-to-access pockets of the population will reduce non-attendance rates. Linking the service with primary care will also improve uptake.

“Our catchment area covers a total population of around 480,000 and is the largest DHB population in the country. Having diabetes eye screening available only through a hospital has meant many people, particularly those out west or in rural areas, have found it difficult to get to their appointments. Non-attendance rates of between 30 and 50 per cent are common. Providing the service locally will make it more accessible and should lead to earlier detection and treatment that can prevent blindness.”

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 80 per cent of all diabetes and is more common among Maori, Pacific and some Asian populations.

“It is recommended people with diabetes undergo eye screening every other year, at a minimum. This frequency should increase if people are found to have changes in their eyes. It is important to attend an appointment as it is often difficult for people to notice early changes in their eyes and it is at this stage we can intervene and prevent problems occuring,” says Dr Palmer. END STORY

OTHER KEY FACTS: Delivery of the service is a Waitemata DHB partnership with: West: HealthWest is operating the service and working with Wai Health, and Pasifika Healthcare. The West Auckland Health Foundation was key in obtaining funding for the service. North: North Harbour Primary Health Organisation (PHO) is operating the service and working closely with Coast to Coast and ProCare Network North. The North Shore Hospital Foundation was key in obtaining funding for the service.

Blindness is just one of the complications of diabetes. Poor circulation, caused by high blood pressure can lead to foot and lower limb problems sometimes resulting in amputations; kidney disease; strokes; heart disease and neuropathy (nerve damage).

NB: Both cameras are being launched on the same date but at different times and venues. Each sponsor – SKYCITY Community Trust + The Lion Foundation - and the eye-screeners who will be operating the cameras will be present at each relevant launch.

The North camera will be launched on:

Launch Date: Monday October 11, 2.30pm – 3.30pm Place: at Te Puna Haoara (Awataha Marae site), 58 Akoranga Dr, Northcote.

The West camera will be launched on:

Launch Date: Monday October 11, 9am – 10am Place: Uneuku Room, Wai Health, 5 Ratanui Street, Henderson.


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