Adults Living with Diabetes at Unnecessary Risk for Vision Loss [Interview][Transcript]

Dr_Jane_Barratt_diabetic_retinopathy_barometerGuest: Dr. Jane Barratt
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Dr. Jane Barratt is the Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing, an organization with members in 62 countries which represents 50 million older people. She brings to her position over 35 years of public and private sector experience in public health, community and aged care, and ageing and disability. Dr. Barratt is a Churchill Fellow, and she was recently awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in Canada in recognition of her efforts to enhance understanding of ageing, engage governments and the private sector, and improve the quality of life of older people.

Segment overview: Jane Barratt, Secretary General of The International Federation on Ageing talks about the DR Barometer, a global study of 7 thousand people across 41 countries that shows that adults with diabetes are at risk of losing their sight unnecessarily.

Health Professional Radio – Adults Living with Diabetes

Neal Howard:   Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you for joining us today. Our guest in studio is Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Aging, and she’s with us today to talk about Diabetic Retinopathy and the study that reveals that adults with diabetes are unnecessarily at risk of vision loss. Welcome to Health Professional Radio, Jane Barratt.

Jane Barratt:   Hello Neal, good to be with you.

N:   You as well, thank you for joining us today. You’re Secretary General of the International Federation on Aging, talk about the IFA. What exactly are you involved in other than the obvious?

J:   Neal, the IFA is connected with the United Nations and World Health Organization and we exist to be a global point of connection of experts and expertise to influence policy related to older people. It’s a really important subject at the moment isn’t it? Because we’re all aging and we know by 2050 there will be about two billion people over the age of 65, and that’s one of the reasons that we are involved in this very important study called the Diabetic Retinopathy Barometer study. Because when we were at the point of a perfect storm rapidly aging population globally, a dramatic increase in prevalence of diabetes. And at the same time all these complications of diabetes and eye disease so diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema, so that’s why we’re involved in this important study.

N:   Are there things that are specific to the aging that have diabetes or are we talking diabetic retinopathy across the board as far as diabetics are concerned?

J:   Look it is across the board but we do know is at the number of people with diabetes has nearly quadrupled since 1980, 415 million adults and by 2040 it’s set to rise by 642. What that means is 1 in every 10 people aged between 20 and 79 will have diabetes. And that’s a tremendous challenge, not only personally as an individual and their family but also has tremendous social and economic consequences to every Government.

N:   Is the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy one of the main fears other than having diabetes? There are several complications associate with diabetes. Is this one of the more feared, the loss of vision, I can imagine thinking that I’ve got something where loss of vision is a very real possibility when I don’t have an eye injury?

J:   It is the most feared complication of diabetes. Next come cardiovascular disease, amputations, kidney disease but the loss of vision affects 79% of those in the study. And when I say ‘affects,’ not able to drive, not able to continue with employment, not able to keep a job, not able to undertake household activities, so the identity of the person changes with diabetes and vision loss. Some of the respondents were not able to manage their diabetes effectively because they had vision loss so it is a serious complication and one which is preventable.

N:   How many people were actually involved in this study? And is this something that was restricted to just one area?

J:   Close to 7 thousand individuals in 41 countries. It is a landmark study, never been done before, we gathered evidence from about 4 ½ thousand adults with diabetes and about 2 ½ thousand healthcare professionals because we wanted to understand the level of awareness from the perspective of the patients but also what the professionals were doing about in access to treatment so both of those groups.

N:   Since the study, have you seen an increased sense of urgency to get the word out about maybe some breakthrough treatments or preventative measures?

J:   This is an ongoing issue, isn’t it? Because there are so many priorities when one is going older and also one with diabetes but what we do know is that people made to get to screening immediately. They cannot wait, and many people in study didn’t recognize that. We also know that health professionals need to be much more informed about eye complications, diabetic macular edema and diabetic retinopathy. And the third key message is around their healthcare systems which quite frankly are inadequate for the patient in the system. And so those are the three messages, late diagnosis, no screening or late screening, doctors and health professionals that don’t have the right protocols and guidelines and healthcare systems that actually are not responsive to the patients’ needs.

N:   There are different healthcare systems in 41 countries, each of these countries I’m sure have different varying nuances about how they care for their citizens. How does your organization in conjunction with those affiliated with you, work to get the education out there across the board so that anyone’s on the same page?

J:   In 2017, we are bringing together patient groups to healthcare professionals together to discuss what are the barriers in your country? And what is the barrier that we need to address to actually shift the needle to improving patient outcomes. We’re dealing with a care pathway, the pathway that a person goes through in the healthcare system that’s either disconnected or disrupted and so we’ve got to get the healthcare professionals, the patients and the government at the table to understand the barriers.

N:   Now in wrapping up, in your experience and in talking with other healthcare professionals, do you think that the first line of defense is the general practitioner? The diabetes specialist or maybe the eye doctor?

J:   Any point of contact with the healthcare professionals is the first point of contact and that is why we are advocating that healthcare professionals across the board must be very conscious and acknowledge the need, the essential need for eye screening. That’s a big message out to healthcare professionals, be up to date with your knowledge and education and you do the asking about whether this person in front of you has had a screen because given loss is preventable.

N:   I know I said we were wrapping up, I was wondering if you felt that the role of the patient in the management of their diabetes as it relates to eye care. Is that education is there just much sense of urgency to get that education out to the patient as well as the practitioners? Or are we counting on our practitioners to educate us all?

J:   We can’t count on practitioners, our own health belongs to us so we have to be well informed with accurate information. One of the findings from the study was the increasing trend to actually look on the internet for knowledge and so we actually have to make sure that that knowledge is accurate and up to date. So it’s patients are being informed, families being informed as well as healthcare professionals and then governments that are responsive in their policies.

N:   Where can our listeners go and get more information about the International Federation on Aging and diabetic retinopathy as it relates to diabetes?

J:   The website is and on that website you can downloads the reports, global reports and country reports. You can ask questions and you can be updated as we’re moving to 2017 with our major advocacy strategy.

N:   Excellent information. Thank you so much for joining us today.

J:   Thank you very much Neal for your time.

N:   You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard for this Health Suppliers segment of the show, in studio with Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Aging and she’s been with us talking about diabetic retinopathy and the diabetic retinopathy barometer or PR barometers. The study that have reveal that adults have living with diabetes are at unnecessary risk for vision loss. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at, and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

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