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Right to sight to cut blindness

Special Correspondent

Programme will reduce blindness from 1.1 per cent to 0.3 per cent, says Anbumani



HONOURING PROFESSIONALS: Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Anbumani Ramadoss (centre) greeting Jairo E. Hoyos, president, KMSG, at a conference in Chennai on Saturday. — Photo: S. R. Raghunathan

CHENNAI: : The Centre has taken up the global programme for "Right to Sight" to bring down the rate of blindness from 1.1 per cent to 0.3 per cent, Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said on Saturday.

The two clusters more prone to blindness or vision impairment — children and the ageing population — are being taken care of under public-private partnership programmes tailored to their needs. In this context, he explained the work done under the School Eye Screening Programme and the National Blindness Control programme all over the country. Through the first, 1,00,000 schoolteachers were trained to identify refractive errors among students and refer them for correction, either through surgery or spectacles.

The National Blindness Control Programme, funded by the World Bank between 1994 and 2002, has received Rs.100 million from the Centre. This will be spent over the next five years on blindness prevention. Dr. Anbumani, at the inaugural function of the 11th Annual Conference of the Keratomileusis Study Group (KMSG) conducted jointly with the Intraocular Implant and Refractive Society of India (IIRSI), said this programme was one of the most successful health sector initiatives in the country. Its effectiveness was 90 per cent, he said, attributing the success to the private-public partnership. A number of senior citizens had been operated on for cataract and received intra ocular lens implants. India had the record for the highest number of cataract surgeries with over 4 million surgeries performed a year. About 80-85 per cent of them received IOL implants.

Dr. Anbumani also stressed the need for greater awareness of eye donation and optimal utilisation of donated eyes. While the demand for corneas that could be used for transplantation was one lakh a year, the actual realisation was between 18,000 to 20,000 eyes. It was the duty of ophthalmologists to spread awareness of eye donation.

He said the Government was keen on promoting health tourism and drawing up attractive `health holiday packages', including beauty treatment, spas and sightseeing for foreign visitors coming to India for treatment.

Earlier, he honoured professionals for their contribution to ophthalmology. They included Jairo E. Hoyos, president, KMSG. Amar Agarwal, secretary, IIRSI, introduced the awardees and their work. He said the KMSG was a worldwide network of ophthalmologists and surgeons who could communicate with one another to seek solutions for various complications.

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