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More optometrists from Geelong and Darebin in Victoria are needed to take part in pilot projects to strengthen links between the health and eye-health sectors, and increase the number of people having eye tests.

The projects are part of the Vision Initiative, a health promotion program funded by the Victorian Government and managed by Vision 2020 Australia.

The recruitment phase of its pilot projects in four local government areas is concluding and baseline data collection is due to start.

Project manager Dee Tumino said they had had strong recruitment in Shepparton and Latrobe areas, with optometrists really keen to be involved.

‘We are working to lift recruitment in Greater Geelong and Darebin and encourage optometrists in these areas to get involved in this worthwhile program,’ she said.

The project will have a co-ordinated health promotion approach to reduce avoidable vision loss and blindness in the four areas which are more at risk of vision loss and blindness due to a higher proportion of risk factors in their communities.

The health (pharmacists, GPs, practice nurses) and eye-health (optometrists, ophthalmologists, low vision and rehabilitation services) sectors will work together to identify and encourage at-risk people to have regular eye tests, and encourage those with vision impairment to engage with low vision and rehabilitation services.

Usual activity will be supported by training for the health sector to increase awareness and knowledge of vision care issues.

Opportunity

Traralgon optometrist John Warren and Geelong optometrist Rowan Prendergast are taking part and encourage others to join, saying it provides a great opportunity for optometrists to improve eye-care awareness in their regions.

Both enrolled after an email from Victoria Division CEO Terri Smith, inviting interested practitioners to participate.

Mr Prendergast said he became involved immediately because it seemed a great opportunity to build the profile of optometry and his own practice among allied health professionals and the community.

‘I encourage other optometrists to join. Our practice has already been interviewed and featured on the front page of the local newspaper,’ he said.

‘Not only does this help promote what optometrists can do to reduce preventable blindness, it also positions your practice as a motivated and engaged eye-care provider in your area.

‘The best outcome I could hope for would be to see increased referrals from GPs and allied health, combined with a greater awareness in the community of the need for regular eye examinations to prevent avoidable vision loss.’

Mr Warren has been in independent practice in Traralgon since 1980.

‘I thought I would become involved as we provide a big umbrella for eye care, and spectacles are just a portion,’ Mr Warren said.

‘I hope my involvement increases awareness in rural areas such as the Latrobe Valley, where some people have a higher incidence of diabetes and macular degeneration due to lifestyle.

‘If we can improve eye care in the region by preventative means, it is less expensive than trying to cure eye diseases and better for the community if vision loss is prevented,’ he said.

‘If this can help create public awareness and make people aware that we are here, it is a win for the practice and a win for the community through education about availability of services and what we can achieve if we get in early.

‘If it can make referral pathways clearer and get more patients to the best care possible, it is another win.’

Pharmacy training was rolled out in February, and GP and practice nurse training will occur in March when eye-health kits will also be distributed to optometrists, GP practices, pharmacies and ophthalmologists.

From June to August, at-risk groups will be targeted and the project will finish in 2015.

Optometrists from the four areas can contact the Vision Initiative team at visioninitiative@vision2020australia.org.au or 03 9656 2020 for more information.

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