About 2,600 people living with cataracts are to benefit from a free surgery programme as part of activities to commemorate this year’s World Sight Day which falls on Thursday, October 10, 2019.
The surgeries, which will begin on a commemorative day, will end in December 2019.
The programme is the initiative of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Ophthalmologists Society of Ghana.
Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the country.
World Sight Day is an annual event of awareness held on the second Thursday of October to turn global attention on blindness and vision impairment.
At the launch of the event in Accra yesterday, the Head of the Eye Unit at the GHS, Dr. James Addy, said apart from the free surgeries, the GHS and its partners would conduct free eye screening for students in some schools in Cape Coast, where the 2019 event will be held.
Other activities included a media briefing and capacity building and intensification of public education on eye health, he added.
He said as part of interventions to reduce the burden of eye conditions, the GHS and its stakeholders were also facilitating the introduction of an eye health policy that would focus on universal coverage of all eye conditions and equitable access to health care for all at an affordable cost.
Additionally, Dr. Addy said, the service would ensure that basic eye screening was integrated into the healthcare system, particularly at the primary level, and also ensure that healthcare providers could go to homes to provide services and first aid.
He appealed to healthcare providers to also examine the eyes of patients to ensure early detection of diseases, which was critical to reversing eye conditions.
“Midwives should ensure that as part of health checks on babies, their eyes are also checked to see if the supposed white part of the eye is white, the black portion is black, whether there is proper eye movement, among other symptoms,” he added.
He also suggested that school administrators, especially at the pre-school level, should make eye testing mandatory.
The eye specialist observed that although blindness and vision impairment were avoidable and mostly treatable, they remained a public health concern in Ghana.
He said currently 224,078 Ghanaians were blind, while 324,005 had low vision, with the situations increasing at a rate of 0.74 and 1.07 percent, respectively, every year.
Dr. Addy, however, said 79 percent of all the recorded cases were preventable.
He also indicated that 54.8 percent of blindness cases were caused by cataracts, 19.4 percent by glaucoma, 12.3 percent by post-segment diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, while 11.2 percent were by cornea-related diseases.
He said even though the GHS did not have enough human resources in the eye care sector, it would ensure that eye conditions were properly taken care of in the country.
“Currently, we have the capacity to deal with almost all eye conditions, and as part of the ongoing capacity building program, the government has invited an international non-governmental organization with high capacity and technology in eye care, the Orbis Flying Hospital (Aeroplane Hospital), to come and build the capacity of health professionals in some specialized eye-care services,” he said.
Dr Addy said due to aging and unhealthy lifestyles, everybody was vulnerable to blindness and vision impairment and, therefore, advised people to take their eye health and that of their dependants seriously by prioritizing regular check-ups.
He also cautioned people against self-medication, the introduction of unhealthy liquids and foreign materials into the eyes and hitting or poking things into the eyes.
He further urged the public to avoid smoking, exposing the eyes to direct sun rays and unhealthy lifestyles because those practices could be detrimental to their vision.
The Director in charge of Administration at the Office of the Director-General of the GHS, Mr. Martin Ankomah, called on the media to intensify advocacy on eye health to help reduce the national burden.