In 2008 the Foundation was a major supporter in the Vision Van initiative developed by Novartis. The Vision Van travelled across the country providing free eye tests for age-related macular degeneration to people aged 50 and over.
This Australia-first initiative was also supported by Optometrist Association Australia (OAA) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO).
The Vision Van delivered its services over three tours. The first tour was launched at NSW Parliament House on 22 September 2008 and travelled for 90 days through the ACT, NSW, QLD, VIC, SA and WA screening 950 people. A second tour took place from 30 March 2009 travelling for 90 days through QLD, NSW and VIC screening 1,348 people. A third 90 day tour, from September 2009, reached 28 towns across five states – TAS, VIC, ACT, NSW and SA, screening 1,309 people.
The Vision Van initiative had the dual role of testing people for age-related macular degeneration as well as raising awareness of the disease. The widespread media coverage reached thousands of Australians with the message to have their eyes tested and to make sure the macula is checked. The Foundation supported the media campaign and conducted a series of education sessions in many of the locations where the Vision Van visited. The project generated worldwide interest and media attention.
Having completed three tours, the Vision Van screened 3,607 people, detecting signs of age-related macular degeneration in one in eight people. This outcome closely reflected the findings of the renowned Blue Mountains Eye Study which showed one in seven Australians over the age of 50 has some evidence of the disease.