The increasing global demand for eye-care services
There are approximately 8 billion people in the world. According to the WHO, globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment. In at least 1 billion of these cases, vision impairment could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed. The demand for eye healthcare is on the rise globally, and it is becoming increasingly important to address the need for stronger eye healthcare services in developing countries. The demand for eye care services is driven by several factors including the increase in non-communicable diseases (e.g. diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure) and an aging population. An aging population is one of the primary drivers of the increasing demand for eye healthcare. As people age, the risk of developing eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and glaucoma increases. These conditions can lead to vision loss and blindness, which can greatly impact an individual’s quality of life.
The growing awareness of eye health among the general public has also contributed to the demand for eye care services. People are becoming more aware of the importance of maintaining good eye health and are taking proactive measures to prevent eye diseases. This includes regular eye exams, healthy lifestyle choices, and the use of protective eyewear.
However, despite the growing demand for eye healthcare, access to eye care services remains limited in many developing countries. This is due to a lack of infrastructure, trained eye care professionals, and financial resources. This creates a significant disparity in eye care access between developed and developing countries, and it is having a major impact on the health and well-being of populations in developing countries. In developing countries, many people lack access to basic eye care services, such as eye exams, treatment for common eye diseases, and corrective vision devices such as eyeglasses. This results in preventable vision loss and blindness, which can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, as well as their ability to work and participate in society. In addition, a lack of access to eye care services can lead to a vicious cycle of poverty and poor health, as people with vision loss or blindness are often unable to work and support themselves and their families.
To address the need for stronger eye healthcare services in developing countries, it is crucial to invest in eye care infrastructure and to train eye care professionals. This includes building eye care clinics and hospitals, and providing training and support to eye care professionals, such as optometrists and ophthalmologists. The Aravind Eye Hospitals in India are a strong example of how high-quality eye healthcare services can established and effectively run in developing countries. It has had a major impact in eradicating cataract related blindness in India. The Aravind Eye System recently expanded to Nigeria in 2018, where it manages the Tulsi Chanrai foundation.
In addition, it is important to provide access to essential eye care services, such as eye exams, treatment for common eye diseases, and corrective vision devices such as eyeglasses. This can be accomplished through initiatives such as outreach programs, mobile eye clinics, and partnerships with local communities. An example of a successful outreach programme is the Eyes2Eyes Scleral Lens programme, which was launched in June 2021.
It is also important to raise awareness about eye health and to promote healthy lifestyle choices. This includes educating the public about the importance of regular eye exams, and promoting healthy habits such as maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and wearing protective eyewear. By raising awareness about the importance of eye health, people can take proactive measures to prevent eye diseases and maintain good eye health. As an organisation, Eyes2Eyes is dedicated to raising awareness about eye health and conditions, and improving access to high-quality eye care, especially for problems affecting the cornea in younger people, in the Western Cape.
To summarise, the demand for eye healthcare is increasing globally, driven by ageing, increase in non-communicable diseases and growing awareness of eye health among the general public. It is becoming increasingly important to address the need for stronger eye healthcare services in developing countries through investments into training, providing access to essential eye care services, and raising further awareness about eye health.