The Observatory

All eyes on the World Diabetes Congress

This week Melbourne welcomes thousands of visitors from around the world to the 22nd World Diabetes Congress.

Diabetes continues to be one of the fastest growing health conditions around the world and it is estimated that 382 million people have diabetes globally, a number expected to rise to 592 million by 20351.In Australia alone, around one million people have been diagnosed with diabetes2 and a further 280 Australians are diagnosed each day3.

The five day Congress brings together leading health care professionals, experts in the field of diabetes as well as people with diabetes to discuss issues, share knowledge and raise awareness of diabetes.

This is an important event for the eye health sector as diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes, is one of the leading causes of vision loss in Australia. The good news is that if diagnosed and treated early, up to 98 per cent of severe vision loss can be prevented4. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds, as it is estimated that up to half of people diagnosed with diabetes do not have the recommended regular eye tests once every two years5. Eye tests are essential to identify and diagnose diabetic retinopathy early, before permanent damage to the eye has occurred.

There is still much to be done to save the sight of people with diabetes, and this is why all year round eye health organisations actively work towards improving awareness of diabetic eye diseases, their early diagnosis and treatments. The Congress is an opportunity to showcase the great work achieved by the eye health sector in both Australia and the Asia Pacific region ensuring eye health is high on the agenda for discussions.

Eye health activity involving Vision 2020 Australia members at the Congress

We have brought together below a summary of the eye health activity involving Vision 2020 Australia members that will be taking place at the Congress.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Professor Hugh Taylor from the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne will be co-chairing with Professor Steve Chadban a symposium session titled ‘Addressing the complications of disease in Indigenous peoples’ held in room 212/213 on Wednesday from 10.45am. The invited speaker for this session focusing on eye health is:

  • Professor Sven-Erik Bursell (USA) presenting at 12.15pm on ‘Retinopathy and novel telemedicine solutions in Indigenous people’.

Andrea Boudville, Mitchell Anjou and Professor Hugh Taylor from the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne will be presenting a poster titled ‘Linking diabetes eye care and indigenous eye health’ on Wednesday 4 December 2013 between 1-2pm in the poster bays 8-10 (PD 0806). This poster presentation will be part of the poster discussion titled ‘Developing models of care in Indigenous peoples’ chaired by Professor Stewart Harris (USA).

Thursday 5 December 2013

Brian Doolan, CEO of the Fred Hollows Foundation, will be chairing a workshop on ‘Developing eye care in vulnerable populations’. The session will be held in room 106 between 9.30am and 10.30am and will include presentations by:

  • Professor Mohammad Daud Khan (Pakistan) ‘Developing eye care in vulnerable populations’
  • Dr Wanjiku Mathenge (Rwanda) ‘Developing eye care in vulnerable populations’
  • Dr Biu Sikivou (Fiji) ‘The Fiji National Diabetes Eye Care Project’.

On the same day, Professor Hugh Taylor will also be co-chairing with Dr Paul Drury (New Zealand) a symposium session on ‘Diabetic Retinopathy’ in room 219-220. The session starts at 2.30pm to finish at 4.30pm and includes presentations by:

  • Professor Jennifer Wilkinson-Berka (Australia) ‘Haemodynamic factors implicated in diabetic retinopathy: basic mechanisms’
  • Professor Alan Sitt (United Kingdom) ‘Metabolic pathways implicated in diabetic retinopathy: basic mechanisms’
  • Professor Hans-Peter Hammes (Germany) ‘Natural history and modern diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy’
  • Dr Tom Gardner (USA)‘Pathogenesis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy’.

Finally, the Fred Hollows Foundation, the Australian Diabetes Council and Diabetes Australia (through the NDSS)have stands in the exhibition area.

Eye health and diabetes will also be the topic of many other sessions and posters.


Please note: Co-chairs, presenters, presentations, times and locations were sourced from the IDF 2013 Melbourne World Diabetes Congress Programme Book.

1. International Diabetes Federation, 2013, IDF Diabetes Atlas, 6th edn, Brussels, Belgium: International Diabetes Federation,, accessed 3/12/2013

2. Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, 2012, Diabetes: the silent pandemic and its impact on Australia, developed in partnership with Diabetes Australia and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, p.3

3. Diabetes Australia, 2012, Diabetes in Australia,, accessed 3/12/2013

4. Access Economics, 2010, Clear Focus – The economic impact of vision loss in Australia in 2009, report prepared for Vision 2020 Australia, Melbourne

5, M Dirani, 2013, Out Of Sight, Baker IDI and Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), Melbourne

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About the Author

Sarah Zerbib

Sarah Zerbib is the health promotion officer for the Vision Initiative, an integrated health promotion program established in 2002 by the Victorian Government as a public health response to the National Framework for Action to Promote Eye Health and Prevent Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss. The Vision Initiative aims to prevent avoidable blindness and reduce the impact of vision loss for all Victorians. Sarah has been working in the Not-For-Profit sector for many years, previously responsible for awareness and marketing activity for an eye health charity in the UK.View author's posts
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