Original Research

Implementation and evaluation of a team approach to managing diabetes mellitus and diabetic retinopathy in the South African district health system

Zaheera Abdool, Kovin Naidoo, Linda Visser
African Vision and Eye Health | Vol 80, No 1 | a570 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v80i1.570 | © 2021 Zaheera Abdool | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 March 2020 | Published: 17 May 2021

About the author(s)

Zaheera Abdool, Department of Optometry, Allied Health Support Services, Voortrekker Hospital, Mokopane, South Africa
Kovin Naidoo, African Vision Research Institute, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Linda Visser, Department of Ophthalmology, School of Clinical Medicine, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, Durban, South Africa


Background: Diabetic retinopathy (DR) screening programmes have been developed and implemented in different countries based on availability of resources. Most protocols developed for DR have been solely dedicated to DR screening without involving systemic screening.

Aim: To implement and evaluate a DR screening model utilising a team of healthcare practitioners (HCPs) to manage diabetes mellitus (DM) to reduce DR progression.

Setting: Primary healthcare clinics and Voortrekker hospital in Waterberg district of Limpopo province.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted, in which a total of 107 patients with DM from seven clinics consented to participation. A proposed DR screening model was implemented where patients with DM were screened for systemic complications at clinics and referred to Voortrekker district hospital for retinal photography. Questionnaire responses evaluated the success of the screening process and operational challenges.

Results: From the study population, 32 (29.1%) were male and 75 (70.1%) were female. The mean age of patients was 63.7 years with a mean weight of 80.69 kg. The mean duration of DM was 9.26 years and the mean haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) level was 9.7%. From the 47 patients who had visual acuity less than 6/9, 74.5% had refractive error. About 10% (9.4%) had DR or diabetic macular oedema (DME) and 38.3% had other lesions. Referral to an ophthalmologist was necessary in 36.5% of cases.

Conclusion: The implementation of a team approach to co-manage DM and DR utilising the developed protocol improved the quality of care for patients with DM in the district health system.


diabetes mellitus; diabetic retinopathy; screening programme; health care practitioners; district health system; primary health care


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