The Observatory

Vision Initiative pilot projects to save the sight of thousands

On World Sight Day, Vision 2020 Australia and the Victorian Minister for Health, the Hon David Davis MLC, launched the fantastic new Vision Initiative pilot projects aimed at saving the sight of thousands of Victorians. The new pilot projects aim to bring both health and eye health professionals together to identify those at risk of eye disease and vision loss, encouraging them to have regular eye tests.

This couldn’t have come at a better time with 2011-2012 Victorian Population Health Survey* figures revealing Victorians are jeopardising their sight—with an alarming 25.6 per cent not having regular eye tests and 20.4 per cent who have never had an eye test!

The World Sight Day pilot launch was a great success, and we were very lucky to have both Helen Threlfall, Deputy CEO of General Practice Victoria and Terri Smith, CEO of the Optometrists Association Australia speak at the event.

Helen Threlfall highlighted how health professionals including GPs, practice nurses and pharmacists can all play a key role in preventing avoidable blindness and vision loss in their communities by strengthening efforts to identify people at risk of eye disease and encourage them to have regular eye tests. Terri Smith talked about how the pilot project will help capture more local residents at risk of eye disease and allow for earlier detection and treatment. She emphasized how important this was considering many eye conditions often have no warning signs in the early stages.

Vision Initiative pilot project launch on World Sight Day 2013

Image from left to right: Georgie Crozier MLC (Parliamentary Secretary for Health), Terri Smith (CEO, Optometrists Association of Australia – Victoria), Jennifer Gersbeck (CEO, Vision 2020 Australia), Helen Threlfall (Deputy CEO, General Practice Victoria), Maureen O’Keefe (CEO, Australian College of Optometry) and Victorian Minister for Health, the Hon David Davis MLC.

About the pilot projects

The Vision Initiative pilot projects will run from October 2013 until 2015 in the local government areas of Darebin, Greater Geelong, Greater Shepparton and Latrobe. Each pilot project has been carefully designed to deliver eye health and vision care messages to at-risk groups through:

  • utilising existing health pathways: Existing primary health services such as pharmacy and general practice will be utilised to identify people at risk of eye disease and encourage them to see an eye health professional, such as an optometrist, for regular eye tests. People with functional vision loss will be encouraged to speak with a low vision service provider.
  • training for health professionals:Training will be provided for health professionals to assist them in identifying people at-risk of eye disease.
  • working with the local community: Key activities and events will be run to raise awareness of eye health and vision care to those at risk of eye disease. These activities will be organised through local community groups and organisations. Local media will also be utilised to deliver eye health and vision care messages to the local community as a whole.

How to take part

Recruitment has commenced for health professionals to take part in the four pilot projects. GPs, practice nurses, pharmacists, optometrists and ophthalmologists working in Darebin, Greater Geelong, Greater Shepparton and Latrobe can register to get involved at

For more information on eye health and vision care as well as the pilot projects visit the Vision Initiative website

*soon to be released

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About the Author

Jennifer Gersbeck

Jennifer Gersbeck is Director of Global Partnerships and Advocacy at The Fred Hollows Foundation, and previously CEO of Vision 2020 Australia. Jennifer has been involved in a wide range of social marketing campaigns aimed at raising awareness, changing behaviour and influencing key decision makers. Jennifer has qualifications in Political Science and Business Marketing, is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and has worked extensively in the health and community services sector.View author's posts
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