Raising glaucoma awareness by Annie Gibbins, Glaucoma Australia CEO


His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia receives representatives of Glaucoma Australia at Admiralty House, Sydney: Ms Annie Gibbons (CEO), Associate Professor Simon Skalicky (President) and Mr Kirk Pengilly (Ambassador).

His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia receives representatives of Glaucoma Australia at Admiralty House, Sydney: Ms Annie Gibbons (CEO), Associate Professor Simon Skalicky (President) and Mr Kirk Pengilly (Ambassador).

Glaucoma Australia’s mission to eliminate glaucoma blindness focusses strongly on risk awareness and early detection; as well as appointment and treatment adherence for individuals known to have glaucoma. This means Glaucoma Australia are targeting their sight saving messages to people aged 40+ who are often difficult to engage but essential to reach.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable yet irreversible blindness worldwide with half of the estimated 300,000 affected Australians currently unaware they have the condition. The insidious nature of this disease means sight loss occurs slowly and it is often termed the ‘sneak thief of sight’ as the peripheral vision loss caused by glaucoma can go unnoticed until an advanced stage. As a consequence, patients are denied access to sight-saving early interventions, counselling and support, all of which may provide incalculable benefit.

Glaucoma Australia believes that while eye health professionals can make a strong impact individually, the biggest impact for patients will occur when all stakeholders proactively work together to improve risk awareness, early detection and treatment adherence. For this reason, their referral response pathway marketing campaign is titled ‘Every hero needs a sidekick’ as they are keen to be the Robin to your Batman in the fight to save sight.

A framework which continually raises glaucoma awareness drives testing and then refers patients to support services at the earliest opportunity is crucial to eliminating glaucoma blindness.

“Glaucoma awareness, early diagnosis and a strong understanding about the importance of treatment adherence is saving my sight,” said Gaela Hilditch

In 2018, Glaucoma Australia designed and implemented a four-stage patient support journey with referrals being received via Oculo, the website or brochure.

Patient support is enhanced throughout the specific stages by personal access to orthoptist educators, weblinks to high-quality patient-centric resources and support groups to build community.  Kirk Pengilly Return from the brink of Blindness 2400x1268px

Stage 1:  Suspected Glaucoma Diagnosis

Explore preliminary diagnosis response

Provide basic information

Promote Ophthalmology appointment

Provide referral resource

Stage 2:  Recently diagnosed and starting treatment

Discuss the treatment plan

Answer questions

Provide education, resources and support

Discuss ongoing appointment and treatment requirements

Stage 3:  Six months post-diagnosis

Review adherence to the treatment plan

Identify reasons for poor adherence

Educate to improve adherence

Provide resources

Encourage relatives to get tested

Stage 4:  12 months post-diagnosis

Grow knowledge and confidence in eye health management

Promote appointment adherence

Promote treatment adherence

Drive family link ‘at risk’ testing

Educate and support change management.

The proactive approach and innovative design, coupled with highly skilled educators and technological advancements have led to more than 6000 patients being referred via Ophthalmology, Optometry and Pharmacy channels. We know that patient education and support leads to better clinical outcomes, so Glaucoma Australia works collaboratively with eye health professionals to maximise the support services provided to patients at all stages of their glaucoma journey.  A strong patient-centred culture, enhanced and supported by industry collaboration, digital technology and campaigns which drive measurable results are all ways to eliminate glaucoma blindness over the years ahead. An extremely encouraging result of the early intervention initiative is that the age of the first contact to Glaucoma Australia has dropped from 80-89 years to 60-69 years in just 2 years.

Glaucoma Australia Patron His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) and Ambassador Kirk Pengilly are proactively extending Glaucoma Australia’s risk awareness campaign far and wide nationally.

Mr Hurley recently had his eyes tested for glaucoma at Flinders Medical Centre by Professor Jamie Craig and then spoke of his experience and his Patronage to patients in Adelaide who attended the Glaucoma Australia Patient Symposium.

Kirk’s high profile and personal experience resonates powerfully and his call to action is simple: ‘if you value your sight and are at risk, go and get tested’.

“When I got glaucoma it really hit home how important sight was to me and obviously to everyone. It was a real wake up call for me as I came within a millimetre of losing my eyesight. As a result, I’m certainly more aware of my eyes, my eye health and the importance of looking after my sight,” said Kirk.

He added, “I feel the need to encourage people to be aware of eye health and the importance of getting their eyes checked regularly. Most eye disease is preventable if you can get to it early so I’m keen to encourage ‘people at risk’ to get their eyes checked regularly.”

Their high-profiles and influence will be accessed at events and through social media to amplify Glaucoma Australia’s key focus areas including:

Improving appointment adherence

Improving treatment adherence

Improving knowledge

Reducing anxiety

Promoting family link awareness which drives ‘at risk’ testing.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases where vision is lost due to damage to the optic nerve. It causes irreversible vision loss due to damage to the optic nerve. The loss of sight is usually gradual and a considerable amount of peripheral (side) vision may be lost before there is an awareness of any problem. Unfortunately there is no cure for glaucoma, and vision loss is irreversible.

What causes glaucoma?

Glaucoma is usually caused by an increase in intraocular pressure (IOP) which can damage the optic nerve. The level of elevated eye pressure which causes progressive damage to the optic nerve varies between people.

The eye is constantly producing a clear liquid called aqueous humour which it secretes into itself. This fluid nourishes the eye and holds the eye in shape. The fluid is then drained out though an area called the anterior chamber angle or drainage angle. If there is damage to the drainage angle, the rate at which the eye produces the aqueous humour then becomes greater than the rate the eye can drain it – causing high IOP in the eye.

This increased pressure begins to damage the optic nerve which lies at the back of the eye. The optic nerve is made up of approximately one million nerve fibres which connect the back of the eye to the brain. Damage to the cells of the optic nerve results in irreversible damage to your eyesight.


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