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Published: February 13th 2015
A patient with a white cataract in the right eye (left side of screen)
February 13, 2015 (Johannesburg, South Africa) The Global Eye Care Program (GECP)
is dedicated to the World Health Organization's Vision 2020 Programme
for the elimination of preventable blindness due to cataract by 2020. Our work follows the tenets of WHO Vision 2020 and targets underserved populations in Oklahoma (our home) as well as in Swaziland and Southwestern China (Chengdu, Sichuan Province). Our activities center around being a technical specialist to help advance and expand existing eye care in Swaziland in alignment with a National Eye Care Programme. Today there are two ophthalmologists operating in Swaziland at Good Shepherd Hospital
and at Mbabane Government Hospital and nine optometrists serving the entire country. A 2008 WHO report estimated a 1%!p(MISSING)revalence of blindness in Swaziland, of which 50%!i(MISSING)s due to cataract. Based on these data, there are an estimated 6,000 people blind
from cataract and an additional 20,000 have cataracts with significant vision loss that require surgery in Swaziland. A 2003 community-based rapid assessment of cataract blindness found that while cataracts cause 50%!o(MISSING)f all blindness in Swaziland, only 20%!o(MISSING)f patients blind from cataract have had surgery. The main barriers to accessing cataract surgery were the high cost of surgery and a lack of understanding of what cataract surgery can offer.
Patients participating in vision screening program in a community based clinic in Swaziland last fall.
enhance access to cataract surgery for many of these patients, the GECP is helping develop better vision screening programs. The program being developed in collaboration with The Luke Commission
will be a community-based vision screening outreach that will be added on to their existing program and should accurately identify patients with cataracts that would benefit from surgery. While the cataract surgery capacity in the country is limited, by streamlining case finding, patients can be efficiently referred to existing surgeons until facilities and the number of surgeons can be expanded. By introducing vision screening into the workflow of existing outreach programs, we expect to find between 5-8 patients blinded from cataract for each full day of community outreach, making a significant dent in the current backlog.
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