The global estimates help one realise the importance of holistic and affordable eye care as in this regard data reveal that there are 36 million people who are blind. Further, 217 million people live with severe or moderate visual impairment. In total, 253 million people are living with visual impairment of one kind or the other. It is also estimated that 1.1 billion people have near-vision impairment. In the context of India, the estimate shows that by the year 2020 there will be approximate 8.25 million population having cataract.
The Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu has appealed people to voluntarily pledge eye donation and Media and NGOs should work to motivate people to do so. He was addressing the gathering after inaugurating the 32nd Intraocular Implant and Refractive Surgery Convention 2018, in Chennai on 7 July 2018. The Minister for Health, Tamil Nadu, C. Vijaya Bhaskar, the Minister for Fisheries, Tamil Nadu, D. Jayakumar and other dignitaries were present on the occasion.
“Through the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), a premier Central Government programme, the Government has been making constant efforts since 1976 to reduce the prevalence of blindness in the country. It has set the goal of reducing the prevalence of blindness to 0.3 per cent by the year 2020. As per the NPCB data, cataract continues to be one of the leading causes of blindness in India. Nearly 63 per cent of people are blind due to cataract. Similarly, around 20 per cent of people are blind due to refractive error. Another major area of concern is ‘Diabetic Retinopathy’. It is the most well-known ocular complication of diabetes and the leading cause of blindness among people between 20–64 years,” said VP.
Adding on VP shared that it is no secret that eye ailment is a major problem among the young children. We feel pity to see young school-going children wearing spectacles. There used to be an impression that perhaps the urban school children are more prone to eye ailments. But now even in the rural schools, we do find children suffering from myopia Excessive exposure of children to video games, mobiles, computers, televisions has been adversely impacting their eye health. Moreover, India has become the diabetes capital of the world with as many as 50 million people suffering from type-2 diabetes. We can well imagine the multiple challenges before the ophthalmologists.
“Friends, the WHO has come out with a ‘Vision 2020’ to rid the world of avoidable blindness and visual impairment. Against this goal, we all can make assessment as to where India stands. The task before our ophthalmologists is fairly cut out,” opined Vice President as he asked for the cooperation of the private sectors and NGOs to augment government’s efforts to provide comprehensive eye care services to the people. Given the challenges being faced by the eye care sector, the Central Government cannot alone do it and we need to involve the Panchayati Raj Institutions and urban local bodies too, he added.
Saying that Eyes are the windows to the soul and a good vision is vital to see the world, the Vice President stressed on the need to provide eye care facilities for those who are suffering from vision ailments. He stressed on the need to devise a multi-pronged strategy for strengthening the preventive and curative eye care.
The Vice President said that India has made great strides in building reasonably good eye care facilities and developing state-of-the-art diagnostics in the specialised treatment of various kinds of eye ailments. No doubt, today patients have access to quality eye care, but given the sheer size of disease burden, the facilities are still deficient, he added.
The Vice President stressed on the need to encourage people to voluntarily pledge eye donation. The sublime ethos of helping a vision impaired person to gain eyesight through voluntary eye donation must be inculcated among the young children in the schools, he added.
The Vice President said that in harvesting the donated eyes, preserving and implanting the same requires quality training of the doctors and other professionals. Mass media can play an important role in popularising eye donation, he added.
“I am happy that NPCB has set a modest target of 50,000 eyes donation in the year 2017-18 and against this, we have achieved 69,343 eyes donation. This is certainly a very encouraging trend and we can set higher targets and achieve the same in the years ahead. In harvesting the donated eyes, preserving and implanting the same requires quality training of the doctors and other professionals. The sublime ethos of helping a vision impaired person to gain eyesight through voluntary eye donation must be inculcated among the young children in the schools. Mass media can play an important role in popularising eye donation.”
The Vice President said that the public sector eye care hospitals must be equipped with latest technologies for quality treatment. Eye care facilities must reach vast sections of people inhabiting the margins of our society in the rural areas at affordable prices as they cannot afford the prohibitive cost of treatment being charged by private eye care hospitals, he added.
The Vice President said that excessive exposure of children to video games, mobiles, computers, televisions has been adversely impacting their eye health. He further said that many of our children are suffering from myopia, especially in rural areas. Lack of availability of trained health personnel to meet the growing disease burden of a burgeoning population has been a major issue, he added.
Quoting the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), the Vice President said that the services of available Ophthalmic Surgeons in the country are not being adequately utilised. Many ophthalmologists are purely working in administrative jobs and similar proportion is posted at peripheral units with no ophthalmic equipments. This needs to be addressed urgently, he added.
Over the years, premier public sector medical institutes and hospitals, regional institutes of ophthalmology and several professional bodies of ophthalmologists such as Intraocular Implant and Refractive Society, India (IIRSI) have contributed significantly to the advancement of treatment of eye ailments. The interactive sessions organised by this Society have been enabling the ophthalmologists and other professionals to understand in-depth the problems being faced by the people and handle the complicated cases with skill and expertise.
“I am privileged to know the Secretary-General of IIRSI, Prof. Amar Agarwal. He has won several awards for his various inventions. We are all proud that his inventions – Glued IOL and PDEK techniques – are accepted and followed internationally by many surgeons. I congratulate him for his many achievements,” VP added.