The federal Government has launched Australia’s first national strategic action plan specifically for macular disease (MD). The 44-point plan, prepared by Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) has been supported with an AU$3 million federal funding commitment over four years. It articulates a shared goal to reduce the incidence and impact of MD on the community and identify effective, evidence based priority areas for action. The aim is to better coordinate limited health care resources across all levels of government and to focus these resources where they are needed most.
MDFA CEO Dee Hopkins said the Action Plan is backed by supporting documentation, providing evidence of need and a business case for each of the action points. There is also a ‘stocktake’ of existing initiatives, programs and services, to identify gaps.
The ‘roadmap’ outlined in this 44-point action plan… will help reduce – and ideally prevent – the economic, social and emotional costs of vision loss and blindness as a result of macular disease
“This is not just an Action Plan for the federal Government or MDFA, this is for the entire eye health sector. There’s never been a better time to collaborate as a sector to tackle macular disease. Working together, we can be so much more effective than working individually to effect system change,” Ms Hopkins said.
She said the Action Plan has been based on four ‘pillars’: prevention and early detection; treatment, support, and data and research.
AREAS FOR ACTION
Specific measurable areas for action have been identified within each of the four pillars. Many will rely on partnerships with stakeholders that include government and non-government organisations, the public and private health sectors, industry, researchers and academics, communities and individuals, their carers and families.
The key action areas identified include:
Pillar 1: Prevention and Early Detection
- Strengthen education about macular disease in the general community,
- Develop innovative strategies to reduce modifiable risk factors for MD, and
- Improve understanding of MD among health professionals through targeted education, training and support.
Pillar 2: Treatment
- Improve access to public hospital services for people with MD,
- National endorsement of approaches to the management of MD,
- Minimise costs,
- Develop innovative service models, particularly in rural and remote Australia,
- Promote new evidence-based treatments, and
- Explore innovative disruptive technologies and strategies to support people with treatment adherence.
Pillar 3: Support
- Develop a national macular health patient portal to improve health literacy and deliver improved services to those living with MD,
- Develop a national program of support for people with complex needs including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR),
- Establish a national low vision aids and technologies program, and a nationally funded, low vision aids and equipment ‘national vision program’ to complement existing programs,
- Work with private health insurance to ensure benefits for low vision aids and technology, and
- Expand technologies to support people who are blind or have low vision.
Pillar 4: Data and Research
- Better use existing data and improve data collection, linkage and sharing of big health data to improve understanding of the macular disease cohort, treatment for macular disease and treatment outcomes,
- Develop a national macular health patient data hub and impact evaluation framework for macular disease,
- Develop a national research agenda,
- Coordinate recruitment of research participants, and
- Increase funding for eye health research.
“Australia is a world leader in fighting macular disease. Over the past decade, we’ve seen key stakeholders from across the health sector and industry unite to prevent, detect and manage macular disease,” said Ms Hopkins.
“The ‘roadmap’ outlined in this 44-point action plan will allow this partnership to continue in a coordinated, strategic way… These action points will help reduce – and ideally prevent – the economic, social and emotional costs of vision loss and blindness as a result of macular disease, greatly assisting the members of our community living with macular disease, their families and carers,” said Ms Hopkins.
MDFA’s National Research Advisor and internationally recognised ophthalmologist, Professor Paul Mitchell, AO said the Action Plan addresses issues relating to treatment, research and better access and use of available aggregate data.
“Australia is recognised as a world leader in macular disease research and the Action Plan articulates a framework and agenda to enable that sight-saving work to continue in a coordinated way.
“As our population ages and becomes more at risk of age-related macular degeneration, and with a rising prevalence of diabetic eye disease in working aged Australians, the incidence and impact of macular disease will only increase and put additional strain on our healthcare system, which is why this Action Plan is so important,” Professor Mitchell said.
The federal government has supported the roadmap with a funding package comprising $1.5 million over four years to increase awareness of the risk factors of MD; $1 million of which will go directly to MDFA. $1.5 million will be provided to appropriate organisations to deliver health professional awareness and education for the management of macular degeneration.
Read the plan at www.mdfoundation.com.au