WORLD SIGHT DAY 2011Thursday 13th October 2011
World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness on the second Thursday in October, initiated to focus global attention on blindness and visual impairment.
According to local Optometrist, Dr. Jillia Bird, World Health Organisation statistics show that 284 million persons are visually impaired. Of those, 39 million are blind and 245 million have low vision. 80% of the world's blindness is avoidable...i.e either preventable or readily treatable and 90% of the world's blind population lives in developing or low income countries such as ours in the Caribbean. The number of blind is expected to reach 100 million by the year 2020 if reliable intervention strategies are not found and implemented. Five priority areas identified for special focus in the Caribbean region are cataract, glaucoma, refractive errors (need for spectacles), diabetic retinopathy and childhood blindness.
Dr. Bird, as President of the Caribbean Optometrists Association recently chaired a special World Sight Day Lecture Presentation at the University of the West Indies' Mount Hope Campus at St. Augustine, Trinidad. The feature presentation was made by Dr. Juan Carlos Silva, PAHO's Eyecare Regional Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean. Other presentations on regional blindness prevention strategies were heard by various regional optometrists, ophthalmologists and UWI lecturers.
Locally, in recognition of World Sight Day , Dr. Bird and colleagues from the Antigua Barbuda Glaucoma Support Group will donate new eye charts to all the District clinics around the island this week and visit each clinic over the next few weeks to ensure charts are well-mounted and are being utilized correctly. Dr. Bird believes the 5yr old visual assessment procedure used in most Clinics can be an effective means of detecting uncorrected refractive errors (i.e nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism) - disorders estimated to affect as many as 9-20% of school children in the Caribbean, causing missed educational and employment opportunities and a reduced quality of life.
Additionally, Dr. Bird volunteers with the T.N Kirnon School for the Visually Impaired each year during the month of May to conduct school visual screenings. This year from the 5 schools visited, 335 children were screened and 88 failed the criteria and were referred for either spectacles or additional testing.
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