Flying Eye Hospital

Preventing blindness: Orbis UK's World Health Day

This World Health Day we're calling for the right people to have the right skills to provide quality eye health care to those that need it

This World Health Day the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital is in Peru, where Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is one of the leading eye health challenges.

ROP affects premature babies exclusively. The impact is devastating: if not treated in time, babies will begin their lives irreversibly blind. However, with the right awareness, knowledge and equipment the condition is entirely preventable.

When we began working in Peru, most hospitals had little to no resource to deal with this condition. Awareness of the condition’s existence, let alone its potential impact, was very low.

The Flying Eye Hospital has visited the country six times, including currently. Each visit has been invaluable in training more health workers to better understand and treat ROP and other conditions.

A pediatric patient in Peru before Retinopathy of Prematurity screening

7.3% of babies are born prematurely in Peru

Visits from the Flying Eye Hospital are just one of the ways that our work prevents blindness. 

In Peru, we established a long-term partnership with local hospital, Instituto Damos Vision. Through this partnership together we have trained over one thousand health workers across the entire eye care team, including paediatricians, nurses, biomedical engineers and ophthalmologists. At the same time, we have worked with thousands of parents to teach them about the disease.

Ongoing training for health workers has been available through our telemedicine portal, Cybersight. In Peru doctors have used this tool to watch surgical demonstrations, consult expert volunteers around the world on cases, and receive 1-1 mentoring, including for live surgery.

Alone, these efforts would not have been enough to make the progress we have in our Peruvian projects. But combined, these three elements have led to long-term lasting change, leaving a legacy for future health workers.

A team of Orbis doctors in training in Trujillo, Peru

Orbis training in 2011

Globally, Peru is not alone in needing support with eye health training. There is a worldwide shortage of eye health workers, and there is inequality in the number of health workers between and within countries. 

Whilst we’ve made progress in preventing avoidable blindness, we face challenges ahead: as the global population of blind people is set to triple by 2050, the need for trained eye health workers will become starker.

Orbis is working with partners to look at how we can help keep pace. New ways of working and training will be required. Mobile-health and investment in community and primary eye health services mean eye screening can take place far from hospitals, in schools or community centres.

With less time spent on screening, specialist eye health workers can focus on delivering complex diagnoses and treatments, and we can reach more people.

Orbis school screening.

school screening in Panchgani

At Orbis, we will continue to work with our partners and harness technology to provide eye health care for all.

We will also continue to advocate for eye health to be a priority: for example, to ensure that eye health and eye health workers are included in national health plans and budgets.

Every­one, every­where should be able to access the essen­tial health ser­vices they need.​We strive to ensure that the right peo­ple have the right skills to pro­vide qual­i­ty eye care to those that need it – wher­ev­er and who­ev­er they are. No one should lose their sight because of where they were born
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