09.13.18

SightLife Women Advocates Head to Nepal to Support Blindness Prevention Program

Source: SightLife

SightLife operates an innovative program in rural Nepal that is successfully preventing more than 125 cases of blindness each month, according to a company news release.

In October, a group of women leaders in ophthalmology from around the US will visit Nepal to meet with health workers, partners, and recipients of corneal care and transplants. A focus of the trip is raising funds to expand and replicate the initiative known as the Village Integrated Eye Worker (VIEW) program.

The VIEW program effectively reduces the future burden of corneal blindness by empowering female community health workers to diagnose and manage corneal abrasions. Left untreated, these common eye injuries can develop infectious keratitis and become corneal ulcers which cause vision loss. Eye trauma accounts for up to 2 million new cases of corneal blindness in the developing world each year, but more than 90 percent of these cases can be prevented if patients have appropriate and timely access to care.

“The incidence of corneal ulcers is up to 10 times higher in places like Nepal and India than in the United States,” SightLife president and CEO Claire Bonilla said in the news release. “The prohibitive cost of a transplant to the patient and the limited availability of corneal tissue make prevention the ideal approach to reduce the epidemic of corneal blindness in these countries.“]

Since September 2017, SightLife and its partners—Bharatpur Eye Hospital, The Francis I. Proctor Foundation, Seva Foundation and Himalayan Cataract Project — have trained 117 female community health workers who serve a population of 120,000 in Nepal’s Chitwan Valley. As a group, the health workers see an average of 260 patients each month and half of the patients are treated for corneal abrasions. Nearly all (98 percent) of the abrasions are healed within four days at a cost of only one dollar per patient to cover medical supplies and an incentive for the health worker. On average, 10 patients each month are referred to an ophthalmologist.

First Women Advocates Trip October 5-12, 2018

A group of 12 American women organized by SightLife will visit Nepal next month to become informed advocates for the VIEW program. The women, whose backgrounds in ophthalmology include surgery, finance, and human resources, have each committed to raise $10,000 to help SightLife fund its prevention work in Nepal and develop similar blindness prevention programs in other regions and countries, including India, China and Africa.

During their visit, the advocates will have the opportunity to meet Nepalese who have been impacted by SightLife’s mission, either as community health workers preventing corneal ulcers in rural villages or as recipients of sight restoring corneal transplant surgery. The advocates also will participate in a refresher training for the female community health workers and tour the facilities of SightLife’s local partner organizations.

“The VIEW program has been successful in preventing corneal blindness in Nepal, but one of the unanticipated benefits of the program is the elevation of the female health workers within their communities,” says Josie Noah, SightLife’s VP of global strategy and programs who oversees the program. “Their original focus was child and maternal health. With our eye trauma treatment training, they are empowered to earn additional income and provide an important service to the entire community of men, women and children.”

To donate to the SightLife Women Advocates campaign to support blindness prevention programs around the world, visit https://give.sightlife.org/campaign/sightlife-advocates-trip-to-nepal/c179552.

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