SAHMRI leader’s vision to improve sight for Indigenous Australians

10 Oct 2019
SAHMRI leader’s vision to improve sight for Indigenous Australians

SAHMRI proudly congratulates its Deputy Director and head of its Aboriginal Health Equity theme, Professor Alex Brown, on securing funding to preserve the vision of Indigenous Australians with diabetes.

The grants from the Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) were announced today by the Governor-General of Australia, the Honourable David Hurley, to coincide with World Sight Day. Professor Brown is one of three researchers nationally who will share in the $600,000 funding.

“My project aims to advance understanding of the underlying social, psychological, environmental, behavioural, clinical, biological and metabolomic risk factors of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular oedema (DMO) among Aboriginal people,” Professor Brown said.

MDFA CEO Dee Hopkins says Professor Brown’s track record in Indigenous health research gives the foundation great confidence his team will be able to improve lives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes.

“Diabetes-related vision loss is around five times higher among Indigenous Australians, so it's vital that we investigate the science, impact and mitigation of inequity and disadvantage,” she said.

MDFA is a not-for-profit organisation that promotes awareness, provides education and support services, and conducts and supports research, in addition to advocating in the best interests of patients, their families and carers.

MDFA is a leading funder of research into macular disease. Since establishing its grants program in 2011, the foundation has committed $4.2 million to 18 Australian researchers and 21 projects.

This year, grants were also awarded to research investigating the potential for scar-less wound healing in age-related macular degeneration patients, and new methods for improving detection and monitoring of the disease using optical coherence tomography. Program applicants are subjected to a rigorous evaluation process based on that of the National Health and Medical Research Council, as well as international peer review. 

Macular disease covers a range of conditions that affect the central retina (the macula) at the back of the eye. Macular disease can affect reading, driving and facial recognition, as well as the ability to carry out critical daily activities and see colours clearly. It is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia, where the two most common macular conditions are age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, including diabetic macular edema.