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New alliance for the global assessment of diabetic retinopathy

A new project has been launched to assess the awareness, treatment and implications of diabetic retinopathy globally.
Published: 19.03.2014

A new project has been launched to assess the awareness, treatment and implications of diabetic retinopathy globally. Results are intended to inform decision-making and policy development around this common and serious complication of diabetes.  

Project partners, the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), working in collaboration with the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) will gather evidence on knowledge, policies, standards of care, and supportive services for retinopathy across 42 countries.

Retinopathy is one of the most common complications associated with diabetes and one of the major causes of adult blindness.  Up to 11% of adults with diabetes have Diabetic Macular Edema (DME), a specific type of diabetic retinopathy.  According to the IDF Diabetes Atlas 6th edition, there are large variations in the estimates of retinopathy prevalence in people with known diabetes, with estimates ranging from 11 to 45% worldwide in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

The global assessment of retinopathy has two substantive and connected phases:

1. Phase I comprising interviews from eight countries (Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Romania, Mexico, Argentina, Uganda, and Bangladesh) is almost complete.

2. Phase II is the implementation of a survey in 42 countries, which is formulated based on the data gathered in Phase I. The survey – patient and provide – aims to garner statistically significant evidence intended to assist in the development of effective governmental policy. 

“The impact of visual impairment goes beyond the individual; communities and economies lose earning capacity and productivity through the loss of human capital, experience and expertise. The IDF believe that increasing the evidence base around retinopathy will help relieve this burden through more effective policy and program actions,” Dr Lydia Makaroff, Epidemiology & Public Health Manager, International Diabetes Federation. 

From the perspective of global ageing, Dr Barratt, Secretary General, International Federation on Ageing, said that “while improved life expectancy is a celebration in many countries, it also brings with it socio-economic consequences in relation to an increased prevalence of diabetes and its complications, a poor level of awareness by potentially at-risk citizens, and inadequate governmental policies to meet the new demands on professional and community services”. 

“Unless we act now to stem the diabetes epidemic and provide joined up services that enable people with diabetes to be checked and treated for diabetic retinopathy then the number of blind people in the world will increase dramatically in forthcoming years” said Peter Ackland, Chief Executive of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

The project will culminate in the production of a barometer report and a compendium of resources designed to increase awareness, as well as to inform policy and practice related to diabetic retinopathy and vision loss across countries.

This project is financially supported by Bayer Pharma AG. Bayer is not involved in the analysis of the findings.

Take part in the surveys here: DR Barometer Project – Survey