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Subspecialties Retina, Glaucoma, Basic & Translational Research

A Question of Capacity

At a Glance

  • Preventable blindness is on the rise globally, according to new data from the Vision Loss Expert Group; there are clear and specific actions that can be taken to change this trajectory
  • Approaching its fortieth anniversary, Seva Foundation is increasing capacity in eye care facilities around the world through its Global Sight Initiative (GSI), so that an additional one million people will receive sight-restoring surgery every year by 2020.
  • Ophthalmologist Marty Spencer, long-time Seva board member, talks about his volunteer work with Seva, training local eye care professionals and introducing new technologies to eye care facilities in developing countries
  • Seva’s cultural competence model of building local capacity where cataract surgery takes 15 minutes, costs $50, and is offered on a sliding scale to patients should help local eye care facilities become self-sustainable within 5 to 10 years

A recent paper in the Lancet from the Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG) conveys sobering data about the projected increase in blindness worldwide over the next 30 years. “Global causes of blindness and distance vision impairment 1990–2020: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” (1) found that there are 253 million people worldwide with vision impairment, including 36 million who are blind and 217 million with moderate or severe visual impairment (MSVI). A full 89 percent of visually-impaired people live in low and middle-income countries.

The authors of the study estimated that 81 percent of visual impairment (blindness and MSVI combined) is avoidable. In this case, “avoidable” includes cataract and uncorrected refractive error, the two conditions included in the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan. It also encompasses trachoma, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and corneal opacity.

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About the Author

Marty Spencer

Spencer sits on the Board of Directors of Seva Foundation and Seva Canada. He has received the Governor General’s Medal for Volunteers Award from the Canadian Government for his commitment and service to prevent blindness and restore sight around the world.

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