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Population Health and Health Services Research

Affiliated with the University of MelbourneUniversity of Melbourne Logo

CERA’s population health and health services research is focused on understanding health and eye disease in the community, and improving health and well-being by addressing the differences in eye health conditions between social groups.

Lead Researcher: Professor Mingguang He

Professor Mingguang He is the Professor of Ophthalmic Epidemiology at the University of Melbourne. Professor He’s research interests include: clinical and epidemiological research, randomized clinical trials, twin studies and imaging technology and he has led a series of studies to help understand the prevalence, clinical characteristics, natural history and risk factors for important eye diseases such as glaucoma, myopia and retinal diseases. Professor He began his appointment in October 2014 and will work on population health research.

Lead Researcher: Dr Peter Van Wijngaarden

Current Research

  • A Diabetes Blindness Prevention Program for Australia
  • The influence of diet on repair of the brain and spinal cord in Multiple Sclerosis
  • Energy supply in glaucoma: one cell’s trash is another cell’s treasure

A Diabetes Blindness Prevention Program for Australia

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults in Australia. The majority of diabetes-related vision loss can be prevented with early detection and timely treatment. The implementation of systematic eye screening programs has been proven to dramatically reduce severe vision loss and blindness from diabetes. Unfortunately, Australia lacks a nationwide DR screening system to prevent avoidable vision loss and blindness, and the current ad hoc approach to early detection of DR is failing Australians with diabetes.

We are working closely with Vision 2020, Diabetes Australia and representatives of the eye health and vision sector to develop a framework for a national diabetes blindness prevention program. This program has the potential to revolutionise eye care for the 1.7 million Australians living with diabetes.

The influence of diet on repair of the brain and spinal cord in Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease characterised by recurrent episodes of inflammatory damage to the insulating layer that surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord. A group of stem cells that are scattered throughout the central nervous system play important roles in repairing this damage and are key to the functional recovery that is often seen early on in the disease. Unfortunately, the ability of these stem cells to undertake repair declines with age and failure of repair is a key contributor to disability in MS.

Emerging evidence suggests that diet can have a major influence on ageing and age-related disease. We are testing whether diet can alter the efficiency of repair.  Our ultimate goal is to develop treatments to improve repair and to promote the recovery of function in MS.  This work builds on an established collaboration with Professor Robin Franklin at the University of Cambridge.

Energy supply in glaucoma: one cell’s trash is another cell’s treasure

Glaucoma involves the progressive loss of nerve cells in the eye. These cells need a constant supply of energy to survive. Recent studies have identified an energy recycling system in the brain in which waste products from neighbouring cells are used by nerve cells as fuel. We hypothesise that this energy recycling system is important for vision, and that disruption of this supply chain contributes to glaucoma. This project aims to shed new light on what causes glaucoma.

Lead Researcher: Dr Mo Dirani

Current Research

  • National Eye Health Survey (NEHS)

National Eye Health Survey (NEHS)

Dr Dirani led a large team of researchers and clinicians to complete the first NEHS in Australia (2014-2016). The NEHS included a total of 4836 Indigenous (aged 40 years or older) and non-Indigenous Australians (aged 50 years or older) residing in urban, regional and remote areas across the entire nation. Findings from the NEHS will play a key role in informing policy on eye health services in Australia, direct resource allocation and from the basis for a much needed follow up study that will commence in late 2017.

The NEHS is a key priority area of the recently endorsed National Framework Implementation Plan (NFIP) developed by Vision2020 Australia and will contribute to the Global Action Plan (2014-2019) that calls for a reduction in avoidable blindness by 25 per cent by 2020.

Other leading research activities include:

  • The development and implementation of an integrated diabetic eye screening program to reduce the unnecessary burden of vision loss associated with diabetes in all Australians.
  • To assess the impact, feasibility and cost-effectiveness of an artificial intelligence (AI) based screening model in primary care settings to reduce the burden of vision loss in Australia.
  • To determine the prevalence and causes of vision impairment and blindness in the UK.

For general enquiries call +61 3 9929 8190 or email nehs-cera@unimelb.edu.au