Eye care needs to be made an integral part of Universal health coverage
Highlighting the importance of curbing down the burden of vision impairment in India, All India Ophthalmology Society (AIOS) organised live interactive webinar. The session was aimed at discussing the ways to pull down the incidences and prevalence of visual impairment. While NPCB has revised the new targets of improving the burden of visual improvement from the present target of 0.3% to 0.25% by 2025, a unified effort from various stakeholders is the key to its implementation.
Various organisations associated with the eye health care, including the ministry of Health and family welfare, Vision 2020, Sightsavers, ORBIS International were prominently present among many others. Various ophthalmologists from throughout the country presented their work in the respective areas pertaining to the field of blindness and visual impairment. AIOS has also organised an Ophthalmic Photography Competition on and the results of the competition will be announced shortly.
The global magnitude of eye conditions and visual impairment attributes to atleast 2.2 billion people who have been addressed and still yet one billion people with vision impairment that could have been prevented or are unaddressed. While the unaddressed refractive errors accounted for over 123.7 million, followed by cataract with 65.2 million sufferers and 7 million glaucoma patients. Longevity, aging population and co-morbidities have also led to a rise in cases of diabetic retinopathy and ARMD.
“Looking at such high numbers, eye care needs to be made an integral part of Universal health coverage and implement integrated people centric eye care approach in the healthcare system. Though the other visual impairments saw a downward trend, among the geriatric population, Cataract still remains the leading cause of blindness with 66.2% and causing visual impairment in 71% of the total cases. There is a dire need to build a strategic pathway to make India backlog free in terms of cataract blindness in a phased manner by 2025.” Said Prof. (Dr) Mahipal Singh Sachdev, President AIOS & Chairman, Centre For Sight Group of Hospitals.
Increased digital screen time amid the COVID pandemic has further triggered the rising burden of preventable blindness in the country. With changing lifestyle patterns and excessive usage of digital screens by people of all age brackets, there is an exponential increase in the number of patients suffering from mild to severe vision problems which are preventable or treatable. Cataract is considered to be the no. 1 cause of blindness globally, which is preventable as well as treatable.
Since the inception of the COVID 19 pandemic, it has become a major hindrance factor in the treatment module for other health ailments and eye care is no exception. Patients suffering from cataract and glaucoma have been refraining from any surgical intervention amid the infection risk and the numbers have dropped over 90%.
“While various issues and challenges remain to be a hindrance in eradicating the backlog of visual impairment and blindness from the country, a unified approach is required to tackle the burden all together. If devoid of timely action and no additional resources are mobilized urgently to deal with this criticality, it is also estimated that these figures will double by 2025. Advanced technology like Laser techniques are minimally invasive and automated that provides greater precision and accuracy with better outcomes and quick recovery in the treatment of cataract.” Said Dr Namrata Sharma, Hony, General Secretary, AIOS & Prof Opth RP Centre.