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Saving sight. Changing lives.

Behavioural Research in Ophthalmology

Affiliated with the University of MelbourneUniversity of Melbourne Logo

Lead Researcher: Dr Gwyneth Rees

Behavioural Research in Ophthalmology focuses on the role of behavioural and psychological factors in eye disease and improving patient-centred outcomes. Behavioural Research in Ophthalmology has four inter-related research themes which aim to:

  • THEME 1: Investigate the behavioural and psychological factors that contribute to the prevention and management of eye disease.
  • THEME 2: Develop and validate patient-centred outcome assessment tools needed in ophthalmic settings.
  • THEME 3: Develop and evaluate novel interventions or models of care to improve patient-centred outcomes for people with eye conditions.
  • THEME 4: Design high quality implementation research to translate evidence-based interventions into eye care services and evaluate the patient-centred, clinical and economic outcomes.

Current Research Projects


Management of diabetes and diabetic eye disease

  1. Personalising Eye Consultations (PEC) to improve outcomes in diabetic retinopathy. The purpose of this study is to combine personal retinal images with evidence-based strategies for behaviour change to improve understanding of diabetic retinopathy and blood glucose control in patients with suboptimal blood glucose control. A randomised controlled trial will be conducted to determine the impact of our novel PEC on clinical, cognitive and behavioural outcomes.
  2. Improving health literacy and health outcomes in people with diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. This project has two aims: to develop and validate a diabetic retinopathy health literacy screening tool; and develop and evaluate a health literacy intervention aimed at improving patients’ knowledge of diabetic retinopathy, well-being and diabetes control.
  3. Interventions to improve self-management of diabetes and reduce diabetes distress. We are examining the impact of problem-solving therapy targeted to problems in managing diabetes amongst people with diabetic retinopathy who are experiencing diabetes distress.


Impact of vision impairment, health literacy and quality of life

  1. Development and validation of comprehensive disease-specific item banks to assess the impact of all eye diseases on patients’ quality of life. This project will better enable researchers, clinicians and policy planners to assess the impact of eye diseases and associated treatments from the patient’s perspective.
  2. Development and validation of a utility measure (essentially a tool for measuring how important/valuable something is to an individual) for patients with vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy. The utility measure will enable the economic impact of diabetic retinopathy and the cost-effectiveness of treatments to be accurately assessed.


Integrated depression management

A randomized controlled trial of a new model of care in a low vision rehabilitation setting

The purpose of this study is to trial a new integrated model of care for the management of depressive symptoms within low vision rehabilitation services. Using a randomized controlled trial, client outcomes will be compared for those receiving an evidence-based psychological therapy, ‘problem-solving therapy for primary care’ (PST-PC) vs. usual care. The cost-effectiveness of this new model will also be examined. This project will provide the world’s first low vision rehabilitation system whereby depression, a common and debilitating, yet rarely treated co-morbidity, is identified at an early stage and effectively managed.

Residential ocular care

Elderly people living in residential care facilities have high levels of vision loss which can impact on emotional health and quality of life. Appropriate correction and cataract surgery can improve vision and, with low vision rehabilitation, can enhance quality of life. This project will assess the success and cost-effectiveness of a new model of eye care targeting vision impairment to improve residents’ daily routine, enhance their emotional well-being and quality of life; and prevent falls.


Most vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be prevented by early detection. However, with no recognised eye screening procedure, up to half of Australians with diabetes do not have a regular eye checks. We have successfully piloted a new eye screening model using pathology centres. In this project, we will demonstrate the overall effectiveness and economic benefits of this eye screening model in urban and rural Victoria for people with diabetes.