Dr Sharon Atkinson-Briggs

A model of culturally informed integration of Diabetes Education and diabetic Eye disease Screening (iDEES) in Indigenous primary care settings

Dr Sharon Atkinson-Briggs presenting

Dr Atkinson-Briggs graduated in 2022.


Diabetes mellitus, particularly Type 2 diabetes (T2D), is a fast-growing pandemic and leading public health problem. If not managed well, T2D can lead to serious complications, such as diabetic retinopathy (DR). DR is a retinal complication of diabetes and one of the leading causes of vision impairment and blindness in working-aged adults globally.

Although there have been many attempts to treat and eradicate DR, the burden tends to fall on the most vulnerable people in low-income countries, rural settings, and indigenous populations. Indigenous Australians are more likely to have T2D and are at higher risk of being visually impaired or going blind due to DR then non-Indigenous Australians.

Studies have demonstrated that early detection and management practices, such as DR screening, are effective strategies to detect and manage DR to reduce the risk of sight-threatening visual complications and blindness (NHMRC, 2008). Despite the benefits of DR screening, screening rates among Indigenous Australians are substantially lower than in non-Indigenous Australians. Thus, understanding the association between diabetes and its complications, above all DR, and the importance of regular eye screening is very important for both individuals with diabetes and healthcare clinicians involved in providing diabetes support and diabetes self-management education. Technological advances and the Medicare rebates that support the use of non-ophthalmic clinicians (general practitioners, diabetes educators, health workers and endocrinologists) to supplement coverage by ophthalmologists and optometrists can extend retinopathy screening capacity and should also facilitate improved DR screening rates among Indigenous Australians. Diabetes educators are part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team and are integral to improving diabetes support and self-management education to assist people with diabetes.

Integrating ocular screening and diabetes education in primary healthcare settings has potential to synergistically improve retinopathy screening coverage, patient self-management, risk factor control, diabetes care satisfaction, health economics and sustainability of under-resourced services.


Dr Laima Brazionis


Medicine, St Vincent's Hospital

Read the thesis