Men's Health Week was started in the United States in 1994 to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
While glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible but preventable blindness in Australia, it is treatable and vision loss can be prevented in most cases if it is detected early. Unfortunately men are less likely than women to visit an optometrist for a regular eye exam which is critical for early detection.
Why is this so concerning? According to a report commissioned by Vision 2020 Australia1, vision loss puts you at three times the risk of developing depression. If not properly managed, it can also negatively impact your social connectedness and sense of independence, particularly if the loss of a driving license also occurs.
This is why Glaucoma Australia is working together with optometry, ophthalmology and pharmacy to prevent sight loss from glaucoma. Services are aimed at increasing early detection and treatment adherence which improve patient outcomes and maximise quality of life.
How do we do this? Glaucoma Australia provides free education and support to equip people diagnosed with glaucoma with the skills, knowledge and confidence required to take an active role in their management plan.
While men have traditionally been less likely to reach out and take advantage of this free service, Glaucoma Australia is starting to close the gap. Since its innovative Patient Referral Pathway was launched in early 2018, optometrists, ophthalmologists and pharmacists have referred 5,608 glaucoma patients to Glaucoma Australia for free support services. Underpinning the pathway is a robust digital strategy which has enabled 76.5% (4,293) of those referrals to come electronically via the referral platform Oculo.
The move away from paper-based referrals to digital has resulted in an extremely positive men health story. Over the past 2 years, the percentage of men being referred to Glaucoma Australia has increased from 28% phone, 31% contact card and 40% brochure, to 49% digitally via Oculo (Fig 1).
Once a patient is referred to Glaucoma Australia, an orthoptist educator is then able to reach out via phone, email or SMS to ensure the patient has the support and resources they need to combat this blinding eye disease.
1. Access Economics Pty Limited 2010, Clear Focus: The Economic Impact of Vision Loss in Australia in 2009, prepared for Vision 2020 Australia https://www.vision2020australia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Access_Economics_Clear_Focus_Full_Report.pdf