Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced details of Partnership Projects – including a glaucoma project – being funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recently. National Executive Officer Mr Geoff Pollard said Glaucoma Australia was pleased to be a Funding Partner in the project together with the Department of Health WA, the University of Western Australia, Lions Eye Institute (LEI) and the Flinders University.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, with one in eight Australians aged over 80 developing the disease. Assessment and screening of near relatives was crucial to catching glaucoma early and reducing its impact.
“It is the first-degree relatives of people with glaucoma that bear the highest risk,” Mr Pollard said.
“The NHMRC’s glaucoma guidelines state that first degree relatives of people with glaucoma have ten times the risk of developing glaucoma and that examining relatives is a good way of catching people early in the disease.”
Lead investigator for the study, Professor David Mackey, said early detection of glaucoma was vital because once actual visual loss had occurred, the damage was irreversible.
“People with a family history should get regular eye checks because, although glaucoma cannot be cured, if caught early it can usually be controlled,” he said.
“This funding through the NHRMC Partnership Projects will allow us to identify, assess and screen more Australians at risk of developing glaucoma because of a possible genetic predisposition to the disease.”
Glaucoma Australia aims to increase community awareness of glaucoma as a potentially blinding eye disease for which early detection and appropriate treatment are the best protections against progressive sight loss.
Previously, Glaucoma Australia funded the Targeting at risk relatives of glaucoma patients for early diagnosis and treatment (TARRGET) pilot study undertaken in South Australia by Flinders University’s Professor Jamie Craig. This study has shown many at-risk individuals are either unaware of their increased risk or fail to access appropriate examination and investigation.
The new partnership with the LEI will expand this study to examine the feasibility, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of TARRGET in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania to develop a strategic plan to improve outcomes nationally.
“Glaucoma Australia expects to find substantially higher rates among first degree relatives due to the severity of glaucoma in the people who initially met the advanced glaucoma criteria from the Australian & New Zealand Registry of Advanced Glaucoma,” Mr Pollard said.
“Glaucoma Australia aims to use the predicted results to affect health policy, improving accessibility to comprehensive screening for this high risk group. Although screening will have a cost, early diagnosis and treatment will prevent late diagnosis and blindness saving considerable direct, in-direct and loss of wellbeing health costs.”
About Glaucoma Australia
Glaucoma Australia is the peak glaucoma awareness/education/support association in Australia. It is a registered, national, not-for-profit organisation whose Mission is: To eliminate glaucoma blindness. Glaucoma Australia raises funds for Australian glaucoma research, including the TARRGET Study.
National Executive Officer
(02) 9906 6640