Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 2 August, 2017: A great outcome has been achieved for the future of eye health of Papua New Guinea. Executed collaboratively, the first national research survey on eye health was recently completed, closely examining the prevalence of avoidable blindness and vision impairment across the nation.
The results, which will formulate further strategies surrounding eye health services and education initiatives, were recently presented by the National Prevention of Blindness Committee (PBL) to the Director of Medical Services, Dr Goa Tau in the presence of the World Health Organization team leader, Dr Paulinus Sikosana. This event, including an opening ceremony and subsequent result dissemination workshop, is hosted by PNG Eye Care and Brien Holden Vision Institute (the Institute) at the National Eye Health Resource Centre, on the University of PNG campus.
The Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) Survey is a population-based survey to assess the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment, its main causes, the output and quality of cataract surgical services, barriers to cataract surgery and other indicators for eye care services in the older population. The RAAB was conducted across all four regions of PNG and an additional component of assessing diabetes and diabetic retinopathy was undertaken in the National Capital District.
Mitasha Yu, Regional Director, Asia Pacific for the Institute, spoke about the study in the context of PNG. “The urgent need for eye care in PNG has been the focus of the ongoing initiative between PNG Eye Care, the Institute and respective governments for close to a decade, and while many outcomes in eye health have been achieved, there is still much work to be done. The completion of the RAAB study is a milestone and has capacity to guide and inform program strategies within the sector. It’s a great achievement and I congratulate all teams involved especially with the adverse terrain and conditions sometimes experienced.”
The survey was initiated by the PBL and implemented with the support of PNG Eye Care and the Institute with the aim of contributing to the development of eye care and health services in PNG through gathering evidence on avoidable blindness and vision impairment, and the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in the National Capital District. This survey was supported under a research grant from The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Samuel Koim, Senior Manager, PNG Eye Care was actively involved in the practical management of the RAAB. “Overall, there was a great response rate to this survey equalling less than 4% refusals and good coverage across all provinces despite the geographic, logistic and safety issues, there was a very low rate of missing data. I feel very positive the RAAB has been completed and will assist in improving the eye health for the people of PNG, as too often we see a devastating and unnecessary toll on communities and individuals alike, which could have been prevented with greater access to services and eye health information.”
The study included visiting 100 randomly selected communities nationally across the varied terrain and examining the eyes of 4818 adults, aged 50 years and over. A further test was carried out on all people who presented with vision difficulties in either eye, to determine the primary cause of their blindness or vision impairment. The team also identified barriers to cataract surgery in those with significant cataract, screened all participants for diabetic retinopathy and performed random blood glucose tests on 1,186 adults in National Capital District.