Over 2 million Pinoys blind, sight-impaired

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
Over 2 million Pinoys blind, sight-impaired

As of this year, the DOH said an estimated 332,150 people in the country are bilaterally blind while the current number of persons with bilateral low vision has already reached 2,179,733. File

MANILA, Philippines -  Over two million people nationwide are blind or suffering from poor vision, the Department of Health (DOH) reported yesterday.

As of this year, the DOH said an estimated 332,150 people in the country are bilaterally blind while the current number of persons with bilateral low vision has already reached 2,179,733.

Of the total number of bilaterally blind, 33 percent or about 109,609 cases were due to cataract while 25 percent was caused by error in refraction (EOR). Fourteen percent was due to glaucoma.

About 937, 285 or 43 percent of those suffering from bilateral low vision was due to EOR, 34 percent or 741,109 was caused by cataract while the rest was attributed to glaucoma and other eye diseases.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, with 39 million blind and 246 million with low vision.

Cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness globally followed by glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration as the secondary causes.

Health experts said blindness or severe visual impairment results in reduced functional ability and loss of self-esteem and contributes toward the reduction of quality of life.

The disability from visual impairment has considerable economic implications with loss of productivity and income and can lead to poverty and social dependency, experts said.

To address the problem, the government drafted a new National Policy on the Prevention Program on Blindness that is more responsive to changing trends in the prevalence of eye diseases.

The DOH also spearheaded yesterday the annual observance of the Sight Saving Month with the theme “Universal Eye Health: No More Avoidable Blindness.”

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said this year’s theme is aimed at strengthening public awareness on the importance of proper eye care and promote the prevention of avoidable blindness, which is now considered a serious public health issue of global magnitude.

Ubial said early detection and preventive care can help keep the eyes healthy and avoid common causes of blindness.

Thus, the DOH’s current thrust is to integrate eye care into public health programs at the local government unit level for continued advocacy and promotion of comprehensive eye care with focus on avoidable blindness.

She said the development of the Community Eye Health Program (CEHP), particularly at the primary level, district and provincial settings will be able to make most of the shared referral and service delivery network from barangay health stations, rural health units up to tertiary hospitals.

Aside from several provinces in the regions that have adopted the CEHP, the model is being expanded to the poorest provinces like Eastern Samar, Leyte and Surigao.

Population and individual eye care services focusing on the prevention and management of avoidable blindness (cataract, EOR, childhood blindness, other emerging eye diseases) at each stage of the life cycle shall be provided through the functional service delivery network (SDN).

Through the SDN, families especially the poor and marginalized are profiled, navigated, referred and arrangements made with health providers at the different levels of care.

“I would like to assure the public that DOH is serious in its mandate and commitment to ensure that every Filipino, particularly the poor, indigent and marginalized has access to affordable and quality eye care,” Ubial stressed.

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