HOPE IN SIGHT
As we observe World Sight Day 2020 with the backdrop of the scourge of COVID-19, it’s a time of reflection and taking stock of the state of eye health care on the island of Jamaica. The number of individuals living with significant visual impairment is staggering. However, the juxtaposition of these daunting visual maladies with the resilience and “can do” attitude of the majority of those affected provides a ray of hope and encouragement for those engaged in bringing awareness and needed intervention in this epidemic of sight impairment.
The need for increased vision screenings throughout the kindergarten to high school years must remain a priority of early intervention initiatives. These screenings / education campaigns will help to bring awareness to the importance of eye health and shift the paradigm from one in which a visit to the eye doctor only comes on the heels of significant visual challenges – not remedied elsewhere – to a mindset of routine /preventative eye care.
Another cohort of individuals in dire need of early intervention are those afflicted with diabetes, hypertension and glaucoma – diagnosed and undiagnosed. The incidence of glaucoma, diabetic and hypertensive eye disease is disproportionally higher among people of African descent and these eye diseases are the leading causes of blindness in Jamaicans over the age of 50 years. The negative impact on activities of daily living (ADL), caregivers and the economy as a result of blindness is evident throughout society. Preventative care must be the hallmark of any awareness campaign.
The saying “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” is never more applicable than in reference to eye healthcare. The precious gift of sight must be protected at all cost. We press on because there is hope in sight, “but hope that is seen is not hope at all; for why does one still hope for what he sees?”. (The Bible, Romans 8:24). The awareness and intervention campaigns must continue.