Medical Research Foundation

Gift of sight on Wheels: fights blindness in India Highly Ranked

Eye diseases

Ensuring quality eye care in the form of cataract surgeries made available in the remote and relatively inaccessible areas of India at doorstep

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Project Summary

Globally, India has the highest blind population in the world, of which 18 million is preventable blindness due to cataract. Lack of eye care in remote villages and tribal areas of India, led Sankara Nethralaya and Indian Institute of Technology Madras, to design – Mobile Eye Surgical Unit. This consists of two buses with a connecting vestibule, that can travel to any location and is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, in order to function as a self sufficient sterile operation theatre in which cataract surgeries are performed free of cost. Through this system, a rural, isolated and far-flung population of over 800 million shall therefore have to access quality eye care at their doorstep

Problem Statement

Cataract remains the most common cause of preventable blindness in India - present in 18 million of the population. About 72 % of the population (1.1 billion) lives in rural parts of India of which 33.8 % is below extreme poverty with limited access and affordability to quality eye care services. National Program of Control of Blindness was launched by Government of India in 1977 to address this issue through District Blindness Control Society on a base hospital approach with the help of government hospitals and non-governmental organizations. Cataract Screening camps are held and patients are transported to the base hospital where they undergo further evaluation and cataract surgery and are then dropped back to their villages. This involves travel to different locations, need for an attendant and loss of work hours for the attendant. There is a significant drop out of patients who are selected for cataract surgery due to fear of unknown place, fear of surgery and the need for an attendant. A sizable population lives in tribal areas which are remote, and experience difficulty in even reaching the base hospital. Mobile Eye Surgical Unit provides a safe and viable alternative by which quality cataract surgery is provided at their door steps free of cost, addressing all the stated concerns.

Solution Overview

Mobile Eye Surgical Unit travels to any location- tribal or rural, with a team consisting of Ophthalmologists, optometrist, operation theatre assistants, maintenance and other supportive staff. After reaching the site, buses are connected and the operation theatre is sterilized for 3 consecutive days to ensure a sterile zone. The outpatient screening is done in a nearby fixed facility. Patients are selected for cataract surgeries after detailed ophthalmic and physical examination. Patients are given dates for surgeries starting from day 4 of the camp. The goal is 30 surgeries per day till the 9th day. On the 10thday, all operated patients are reviewed, post operative instruction and medications are given and the team and buses return. An ophthalmologist re- visits the location to examine the patients after 1 week. The final check up is after one month and glasses are made and distributed.Cataract related blindness causes a burden on the family in terms of taking care of the person, loss of work hours or lack of freedom for mobility and dependency of the person who is blind. The improvement in the quality of life following visual rehabilitation through Mobile Eye Surgical Unit is instantly visible in these families. There is no need for travel, hospitalization as the patient goes back home after surgery, no expense involved for patient or attendant and no loss of work hours for the attendant as surgery is done at their doorstep.

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