A few days ago I saw an article from the New York Times (high brow I know) about eye care in the developing world, in particular India. This section really struck me:
More than a billion people around the world need eyeglasses but don’t have them, researchers say, an affliction long overlooked on lists of public health priorities. Some estimates put that figure closer to 2.5 billion people. They include thousands of nearsighted Nigerian truck drivers who strain to see pedestrians darting across the road and middle-aged coffee farmers in Bolivia whose inability to see objects up close makes it hard to spot ripe beans for harvest.It seems such a simple thing but even according to the World Health Organisation up to 75% of blindness in the world could have been avoided. 60% of the the cases of blindness in 1996 were due to either cataract or refractive error. This could be prevented or cured with a simple 30 minute operation or a pair of glasses but isn't due to lack of care or money.
Even before I qualified I wanted to help give back to the world with my new skills, helping patients in the UK is great but with the exception of some emergency health appointments you are rarely making a significant difference to someone's life that they wouldn't be able to get elsewhere. Some of friends have helped out in Moldova, Romania, Uganda and elsewhere. For me the Caribbean has always had a special place in my heart, after I got married in Jamaica in 2006. Whilst there is some eye care available in the bigger towns and cities, if you have insurance, there is very little in rural parts with only 2 public health eye care providers for every 500,000 Jamaicans and no public health optometrists. 43% of Jamaicans have never seen or been treated for eye health problems in their lifetime! Because of this I am volunteering to help with Great Shape Inc on their iCare initiative in Jamaica this October. I will be doing some fundraising later on and will do my best to keep you updated on progress and what happens when I'm over there.