The Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology (PAO), the premier specialty society of eye doctors in the country, has embarked on an education campaign to help curb the worsening prevalence of preventable blindness in the Philippines.
In the recent Vision 2020 Advocacy and District Program Planning Workshop held at the Richmonde Hotel in Ortigas Center, Pasig City, the PAO underscored the need for the health community, especially eye doctors who are practicing in the Philippines, to take a bolder stance in the eradication of avoidable blindness, especially in the rural communities.
“With every restored vision, we increase the potential of Filipinos to become more productive members of society. This is our advocacy and legacy,” said Dr. Maria Victoria A. Rondaris, Committee Chair for Sight Preservation of the PAO during the workshop. “We want to bridge the gap between blindness, vision impairment and awareness; and increase every Filipino’s access to proper eye health care.”
The PAO believes that if it educates the public about the common causes of blindness and how they can access proper eye health service, they will be empowered and thereby promote a good health-seeking behavior in order to prevent blindness.
Crucial to its commitment to help mitigate preventable blindness in the Philippines by the year 2020, the PAO continues to hold training workshops all over the Philippines to promote “My community, my responsibility” advocacy.
Dr. Rondaris disclosed the results of the Third National Survey of Blindness (2002) which showing that bilateral cataract and uncorrected refractive error are the number one cause of blindness and visual impairment, respectively. This survey also showed that cataract is also the top cause of blindness among Filipino children. This is consistent with the world statistics presented by the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region Technical Officer for the Prevention of Blindness, Dr. Andreas Mueller. He showed global data of approximately 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness. Of the 285 million, 246 million have moderate or severe visual impairment, 145 million of which are due to uncorrected refraction error, while 39 million of the 285 million are blind. Dr. Mueller pointed out that there is a great discrepancy in Visual Impairment cases in Southeast Asia compared with North America, Europe, and the rest of the world. He attributed this to poor integration of health care systems, lack of awareness, and low ratio of ophthalmologists to the population.
Dr. Noel Chua, Chairman of the National Committee for Sight Preservation noted that among the challenges for the Vision 2020 campaign in the Philippines is the lack of public awareness, limited access to proper eye care health and services and the maldistribution of eye health professionals.
Dr. Rondaris reiterated the need for workshops that focus on the importance of creating district comprehensive eye programs to engage local ophthalmologists in the various provinces. She added that in order for Vision 2020 Philippines to work, there is a need for community participation and multi-sectoral collaboration.