Reach of blindness prevention initiative to be expanded

Michael Kalloniatis
Tuesday, 19 June, 2012

Since opening its doors to the public in late 2009, the Centre for Eye Health (CFEH) has assessed more than 10,000 people in NSW and the ACT identified by their optometrist or ophthalmologist as being at-risk of losing vision.  The unmitigated success of this new collaborative model of healthcare delivery has exceeeded  the expectations of founding partners, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and UNSW. 

CFEH and its founding partners now seek to expand the Centre’s reach into areas of high demand, and invite organisations with similar goals to consider participating in the unique collaborative initiative. 

“10,000 people who might still be on a public hospital waiting list, or who may have ignored a private referral due to the cost, have now been comprehensively assessed and triaged“says President of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and CFEH Chair Barry Stephen. “With the prevalence of eye disease increasing, and  an ageing population, our challenge now is to ensure a sustainable financial foundation for the Centre, so it can continue to address unmet eye health needs in the wider community”. 

To underpin expected continued growth in referrals, Mr Stephen today announced that a CFEH Board sub-committee will be formed to investigate new partnership opportunities that will help the centre meet its long-term public health objectives.  At the same time, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has announced that the date of its first funding review of the UNSW partnership will coincide with the preparation of the Centre’s second five –year strategic plan in June 2014. 

“Early detection of eye disease is the single most important thing we can do to save sight”says Centre Director Professor Michael Kalloniatis.  “The commitment and foresight of our founding partners has allowed us to establish a state-of-the art diagnostic facility that is staffed by optometric experts and consulting ophthalmologists from the local health district”. 

With more than 1,000 eye-care practitioners registered to use the Centre, it is increasingly seen as an extension to smaller optometric and ophthalmic practices, allowing providers to access additional technology and expertise to provide more tailored patient care at no extra charge. CFEH also supports optometrists by delivering continuing professional development (CPD) events and resources. 

“The commitment of  Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to save sight through early detection continues to drive referrals to the busy CFEH clinic” says Professor Kalloniatis. “The awarding of a $1.1m grant by the National Health and Medical Research Council  to fund glaucoma research at CFEH, further illustrates the value of our collaboration with UNSW. However, the scale of critical public health issues in NSW and the ACT means that we must broaden our scope, so it is timely to look for ways of engaging with additional partners who can support even more growth.”  

Organisations with an interest in contributing to the future growth and direction of Centre for Eye Health (CFEH) are invited to contact Professor Kalloniatis on 02 8115 0700.