By Rhiannon Riches
Twice as many Victorian communities at risk of blindness and vision loss have been given a lifeline with the Victorian Government committing $3.4 million to the Vision Initiative program.
The program will roll out in eight new local government areas over the next four years with the new funding. Vision 2020 Australia expects to announce the eight new local government areas in October.
Vision Initiative project manager Dee Tumino said the program would be extended to four local government areas over the first two years, and then an additional four in the following two years.
The program has been operating in four local government areas during the past year—Darebin, Greater Geelong, Greater Shepparton, and Latrobe—and will continue to support those communities.
The Vision Initiative is a partnership program headed by Vision 2020 Australia that takes a community approach to combating eye conditions and eye disease. The program has been working with local eye health and primary health professionals to ensure people with a higher risk of eye disease are detected early.
Vision 2020 Australia CEO Jennifer Gersbeck said the government had recognised the importance of prevention when it came to eye health and vision care.
‘The new funding will see eye health prevention activity rolled out to eight new Local Government Areas by bringing primary health and eye health professionals together to identify those at risk of avoidable blindness and vision loss, and encouraging people to have regular eye tests,’ Ms Gersbeck said.
‘Projections show that by 2020 more than 201,000 Victorians will be vision impaired if we don’t take action now. This funding will go a long way in saving the sight of thousands of Victorians.’
Ms Tumino said Vision 2020 Australia would work with the Victorian Department of Health to analyse data as part of an empirical evidence approach to identify which eight local government areas out of a possible 79 were most suited to join the Vision Initiative program.
She said Vision 2020 Australia completed a baseline evaluation of the program in Darebin, Greater Geelong, Greater Shepparton, and Latrobe in October 2013.
Vision 2020 Australia is now preparing to survey 500 people over the age of 40 years from each of these four local government areas, 2,000 people in total, as part of a further evaluation of the program’s effectiveness.