Although the health landscape has been changed by COVID-19, sight remains one of our most vital senses and Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) is still working to increase awareness of macular disease, Australia’s leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss.
This year, the focus is on ensuring people know how to keep their vision S.A.F.E. in uncertain times.
This year is like no other. This Macula Month will be like no other.
Macula Month in May has become a staple in the eye health calendar, and the industry’s enthusiastic adoption of Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s public awareness initiative in past years is greatly appreciated.
MDFA always takes seriously its responsibility to educate Australians about the importance of eye health. This responsibility to provide accurate and timely information on eye health becomes even more important as the usual health systems in our society are diverted to the overwhelming crisis that is COVID-19.
Without access to many of the usual channels of support, Australians must know how to recognise vision-threatening emergencies
MDFA continues to operate its National Helpline – 1800 111 709 – which provides free health and lifestyle advice relevant to the macular disease community. MDFA will also continue to use its digital channels to provide information and advice.
Health messaging this year has rightly focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, and MDFA communications have reflected that shift, providing our community with additional health information about how to manage macular disease in uncertain times.
MDFA’s call is focussed on asking Australians to know how to keep their vision S.A.F.E.
Initially, this was devised as a simple Macula Month mnemonic around the risk and prevention factors for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is responsible for 50% of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia.
S.A.F.E., in its original iteration, stands for:
Smoking – smokers are at a three to four times higher risk of AMD than nonsmokers,
Age – risk increases dramatically as you get older,
Family history – if you have a first-degree family member with AMD, you have a 50% risk of getting it too,
Eye exams – regular eye exams with your local optometrist will ensure early detection of AMD, giving you the best chance of preventing vision loss.
In our modern, digitally led lives, sight is consistently rated as one of our most valued senses. This remains true. For that reason, the S.A.F.E. message remains important.
But the call to keep vision S.A.F.E. has since taken on a broader meaning, as MDFA and the wider eye health profession find new ways to communicate the importance of keeping vision safe in turbulent times. Without access to many of the usual channels of support, Australians must know how to recognise vision-threatening emergencies, where and when to seek help, and how to self-monitor vision at home with an Amsler grid.
A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT
The success of MDFA’s Macula Month program in the past has always been in working collaboratively with optometrists, ophthalmologists and others to spread the key health messages to the wider community. This May, MDFA will continue to provide free resources to eye health professionals and the general public.
Practical resources, including disease information and fact sheets, are available on MDFA’s website.
MDFA’s social media channels will continue to provide information and a point of connection for people with macular disease, their families and carers.
You are asked, as much as possible, to continue to refer your patients to MDFA, for ongoing telephone advice and support.
While many eye health professionals refer patients to MDFA in the latter stages of AMD, MDFA can also support your at-risk patients, and those in the earlier stages of AMD, patients with diabetic eye disease or other diseases and conditions of the macula.
In an era that demands isolation and social distancing, the telephone coaching service – offering disease information, health and wellbeing support and individual patient advocacy – provided by MDFA is even more important. The National Helpline number is (AUS) 1800 111 709. We urge eye health professionals to make use of these existing capabilities being offered by MDFA, to help you provide continuing holistic care to your patients. PATIENT SUPPORT – RIGHT INFORMATION RIGHT TIME Significant work has been achieved in recent times to integrate patient clinical care between optometrists and ophthalmologists. MDFA, however, continues to experience a high demand from new and existing patients seeking disease specific information, other nonclinical advice such as diet and lifestyle modifications to reduce risk of progression, and information to live optimally with macular disease.
Understanding the patient journey and providing the right information at the right time is imperative to improve patients’ health literacy, reduce modifiable risk factors and enhance self-management care. While MDFA has a proven track record of being the macular disease expert, it now has a range of practical resources and supports to help Australians at any stage of their macular disease journey. More than 98% of patients would recommend MDFA to others.
By introducing any newly diagnosed patient with a macular condition to MDFA, as a first port of call, you will be helping them access expert, free and independent advice and support and achieve better outcomes. Free services include:
- National Helpline and tele-support,
- A wide range of practical fact sheets and disease information on all 22 macular conditions, free resources such as Amsler grids and newsletters,
- Highly valued education programs delivered across Australia for both consumers and health professionals including face-to-face and webinar series,
- Navigational support and explanation of service support systems, including government entitlements, low vision service options, transport and more, and
- Peer to peer – a telephone check in service from volunteers with lived experience of macular disease.
All MDFA’s clinical information is oversighted by the Medical Committee comprising Australian’s leading researchers and ophthalmologists. MDFA education and support staff include optometrists, orthoptists and others who are qualified in post graduate vision science and public health.
CONNECTING TO MDFA
MDFA is now partnering with Oculo to enable patients with macular conditions to be connected to MDFA for immediate and ongoing support. The process is simple and allows you to easily record patient consent to pass on their basic contact details to MDFA for follow up.
Eye health professionals can also refer patients through MDFA’s website and MDFA is also able to provide you with a traditional printed form, which can be personalised to your practice, to be scanned and returned.
By working together with eye health professionals, MDFA can offer Australians a quality, integrated care team solution – for all their needs when living with a macular condition.
Together we can have a long-lasting, positive impact on people’s quality of life and promote better patient outcomes.
Dee Hopkins is the CEO of Macular Disease Foundation Australia.
To order patient or practice resources, visit MDFA’s website: www.mdfoundation.com.au/resources To refer patients to MDFA for free information and support: www.mdfoundation.com.au/refer If you would like information regarding collaboration with MDFA, contact our National Program Manager on firstname.lastname@example.org MDFA’s National Helpline is 1800 111 709.