Launch: Retina Action Universal Call to Action

Retina Action have published a universal call to action, calling upon governments to:

  1. Develop, and where developed, implement screening programs for Age-related Macular Degeneration and Diabetes-related Retinopathy.
  2. Sustain and prioritise screening programs for Age-related Macular Degeneration and Diabetes-related Retinopathy during times of crisis;
  3. Improve awareness on the issues of digital poverty in the development of remote screening and eye healthcare programs;
  4. Prioritise the vaccination of the already vulnerable vision loss community against COVID-19; and
  5. Promote the inclusion and wellbeing of the ageing vision loss community.

Retina Action Call to Action (pdf)

Retina Action Call to Action (Word)

Summary:

Retina Action is a global coalition of civil society organisations – including non-governmental organisations and professional associations, concerned with vision health, ageing, caregiving, medical research and the delivery of appropriate and timely treatment options to patients affected by conditions of the ageing retina.

In 2019, 9% of the global population was estimated to be aged 65 years and older, and this figure is projected to rise to 16% by 2050. Current estimates of the global cost of visual impairment due to Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) stand at $343 billion US Dollars, with $255 billion of this figure accounting for direct health care costs. Additionally, more than 463 million people worldwide are living with diabetes. Over one third of this cohort experience Diabetes-related Retinopathy (DR); a condition of the retina that is the leading cause of blindness in the working-age population today. In countries where systematic screening programs have been implemented, and timely therapeutic intervention has ensued, DR is no longer the leading cause of blindness in their working population.

Visual impairment in older adults leads to functional limitation, poor psychological health, challenges in the management of medication, worse overall health outcomes, and increased health care spending. Promoting the visual health of older people is not only a public health priority, but also an economic concern.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated that vision loss – and retinal diseases in particular, are not prioritised in times of crisis. During the first wave of this pandemic, Optometrists – who are often the first line of access for those with early signs of visual disturbance, reported a 40% reduction in services. In clinical settings, high risk patients experienced treatment delays of up to 8 weeks, while in most regions elective treatments and procedures were delayed by 3 months. In addition, clinicians reported some non-attendance due to patients’ fear of contracting COVID-19.

Retina Action is concerned that the restrictions to care and services during the COVID-19 pandemic will further promote decreased physical and social engagement, thus leading to higher rates of morbidity and mortality. As we move towards a world of digitized healthcare – which has been fast tracked as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, urgent consideration must be given to the digital divide, which impacts the process of validating and standardizing home health monitoring and care for the ageing and vision impaired community.

To safely bring retina patients back to the clinic in order to receive their scheduled sight-saving care, prevent avoidable blindness, and to reduce the associated negative impact on both those affected and their caregivers, Retina Action calls upon governments to:

  1. Develop, and where developed, implement screening programs for Age-related Macular Degeneration and Diabetes-related Retinopathy.
  2. Sustain and prioritise screening programs for Age-related Macular Degeneration and Diabetes-related Retinopathy during times of crisis;
  3. Improve awareness on the issues of digital poverty in the development of remote screening and eye healthcare programs;
  4. Prioritise the vaccination of the already vulnerable vision loss community against COVID-19; and
  5. Promote the inclusion and wellbeing of the ageing vision loss community.

Launch Webinar

To mark the launch of this call to action, we hosted a panel discussion on the wellbeing and inclusion of the ageing community living with low vision in our society.

Retina Action Webinar graphic

Joining us on the panel were:

Moderator:

Dr. Orla Galvin – Director of Research Policy, Retina International

Panellists:

Dr. Keith Gordon – Chair of Retina Action, and Senior Research Officer of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

Karen Denton – AMD Ambassador for Retina South Africa,

Mike Smith – President of Retina New Zealand

Daniela Brohlburg – Counsellor & Retinal Dystrophy patient advocate, PRO RETINA Deutschland e.V.

Dr. Juliana Sallum – Board Certified Ophthalmologist and Geneticist, UNIFESP, Brasil

Click here to register for this on-demand webinar.