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Eyecare campaign for marginalised sections

Sight Savers International,a non-profit UK-based organisation,and Mumbai Eye Care Campaign have come up with a pan-Mumbai campaign to provide eye care for marginalised sections of the society.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai |
May 11, 2009 11:00:13 pm

Sight Savers International,a non-profit UK-based organisation,and Mumbai Eye Care Campaign have come up with a pan-Mumbai campaign to provide eye care for marginalised sections of the society.

Both the NGOs along with the government have pledged to start 15 mini ‘vision centres’ across city slums to screen and treat refractive errors in slumdwellers. The project — Mumbai Comprehensive Eye Care Campaign — will roll out in mid-September. “People detected with refractive errors in the screening will be provided free glasses and those who require surgery will be referred to our partner hospitals. One of the partner hospitals,KB Haji Bachooali Hospital,has promised to treat cataract free of cost,” said Bhavna Pande,project director,Mumbai Eye Care Campaign. Three such centres have been functioning in Dharavi for more than a year.

A study conducted in Dharavi last year had found that women in the area had very poor access to as simple a thing as eye glasses. Barely five per cent of them who required eye glasses owned them. However,their male counterparts had better access to eye care. “Around 69 per cent of the population with refractive vision was women. It was why we decided to reach out to women,as the situation analysis revealed that women did not have as much access to eye care as their male counterparts,” said Dr Prema Chande,principal of Lotus College of Optometry,which along with Mumbai Eye Care Campaign conducted the study.

These women are usually employed in zari industry,leather industries and even cleaning grains that demand good vision. The study also found that of the 4,826 adults examined at the vision centres,spectacles were prescribed to 2,532. Of these,1,347 needed spectacles for near vision only while 1,185 needed bifocals. Cataract was detected in four per cent and other ocular conditions in three per cent.

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Of the 2,862 persons studied,the average age of 1,142 was 41. The study also revealed that 53 per cent of the spectacles prescribed were for near vision. It found that eye care treatment was either the last in the list of priorities or not accessible to these slumdwellers. “The study revealed that 51 per cent of them were not aware that eye care is important for their day-to-day activities,53 per cent saw the eye examination as a loss of time and eventually daily wages and 41 per cent said they will not be able to afford eye care,” Chande said.

“In case of children,refractive errors were found in 3.2 per cent of the slum population,which is more than the rural (1.7 per cent) but less than the urban (5.2 per cent) population. Those detected with refractive errors were prescribed glasses and for other ocular morbidity,they were referred to the base hospitals,” Pande said.

As part of the project,special eye camps will be organised for zari workers,leather industry workers and autorickshaw drivers within their working vicinity. Street plays,brochures and other information material will be designed to generate awareness and highlight the significance of eye care.

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