By virtue of Proclamation No. 40, the DOH spearheads during this month the annual observance of the Sight Saving Month.
This year’s theme is Universal Eye Health: “No More Avoidable Blindness”, which is aimed at strengthening public awareness on the importance of proper eye care and promote the prevention of avoidable blindness, being considered as a serious public health issue of global magnitude. This month’s Sight Saving Health campaign likewise calls for concerted actions toward reducing the government’s burden in addressing avoidable blindness.
According to a 2012 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), an approximately 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, with 39 million blind and 246 million with low vision.
Globally, cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness followed by glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration as the secondary causes, while visual impairment are mainly caused by uncorrected refractive errors followed by cataracts and glaucoma.
In the Philippines, the 2017 estimated number of persons who are bilaterally blind is 332,150 of which 33% or around 109,609 is due to cataract, 25% (83,037) due to errors of refraction (EOR) and 14%(46,501) due to glaucoma. The rest are due to other eye conditions like glaucoma, retinopathy and maculopathy.
In addition to this statistics, the current number of persons with bilateral low vision is 2,179,733 of which 43% (937,285) is due to EOR, 34% (741,109) cataract, and the rest is caused by glaucoma and other eye diseases.
Avoidable blindness left unaddressed, particularly for those who are blind or have severe visual impairment, results in reduced functional ability and loss of self-esteem and contributes towards 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.
To effectively address this public health concern which affect the national development, a new National Policy on the Prevention Program on Blindness has been drafted to align program policies with the current Philippine Health Agenda (PHA) and make it responsive to changing trends in the prevalence of eye diseases.
Early detection and preventive care can help keep our eyes healthy and avoid common causes of blindness. Thus, the DOH 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.
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 which have adopted the CEHP, the model is being expanded to the poorest provinces like Eastern Samar, Leyte and Surigao. This initiative is in coordination with different non-government organizations (NGOs).
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 in 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. Further, we deeply recognize the importance of collaboration in moving forward the agenda of All for Health towards Health for All in the fight against blindness,” the Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial stated.