Regional governments urged to do more to combat blindness

In a message to mark “World Glaucoma Week”, the Antigua-based CCB said that the disease is a leading cause of permanent blindness among adults in their middle years and older and poses a significant potential challenge to the wellbeing of affected individuals, their families, communities and national economies.

CCB said that glaucoma week is a reminder to everyone that glaucoma is a major public health concern and if the findings from the Barbados Eye Study are extrapolated to the rest of the Caribbean, four percent, or close to 250,000 persons, in the English-speaking Caribbean are living with glaucoma.

“Global estimates suggest that more than 90 percent of persons who are blind live in developing countries. The harsh reality is that poverty and underdeveloped eye health services are among the leading causes of blindness in the Caribbean and around the world.”

CCB said because of the pervasiveness of unemployment and underemployment in most Caribbean countries, many who risk losing their sight to glaucoma “have to make the stark decision to forego a long overdue visit to the eye specialist in order to put food on the table or pay for more immediate social and economic demands.

“Furthermore, persons who receive a diagnosis of glaucoma are often confronted with the lifelong challenge of finding the money to pay for visits to the doctor and purchase glaucoma medications,” the CCB said, warning that unless Caribbean governments make a strategic and fiscal decision to fund the training, recruitment and placement of increased numbers of refractionists, optometrists and  ophthalmologists… members of the region’s middle classes, the near-poor and the poor, will continue to lose sight to glaucoma at an alarming rate”.

The CCB said that statistics show that there is one optometrist to more than 150,000 persons living in the Caribbean and wants the figure improved to one optometrist to every 10,000 residents.

The CCB said it is pleased with the efforts of the University of Guyana, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana “for joining our efforts to increase the number of optometrists available to the Caribbean”.

Reprinted from Caribbean360

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