Background: Cataract remains the leading cause of global blindness. Evidence from population-based surveys, carried out up to 2000, and the launch of the VISION 2020 initiative to address avoidable blindness showed that women in low- and middle-income countries had a lower cataract surgical coverage (CSC) than men.
Methods: A systematic review identified population-based surveys reporting CSC in low- and middle-income countries published since 2000. Researchers extracted data on sex-specific CSC rates and estimated the overall CSC differences using meta-analyses.
Results: Among the 23 surveys selected for this review, 21 showed higher CSC among men. The Peto odds ratio revealed that men were 1.71 times (95% CI 1.48 to 1.97) more likely to have cataract surgery than women. The risk difference in the rates of surgery varied from −0.025 to 0.276, and the combined average was 0.116 (95% CI 0.082 to 0.149).
Discussion: Gender inequity in use of cataract surgical services persists in the low- and middle-income countries. It is estimated in this study that blindness and severe visual impairment from cataract could be reduced by around 11% in the low- and middle-income countries if women were to receive cataract surgery at the same rate as men. Additional effort globally is needed to ensure that women receive the benefits of cataract surgery at the same rate as men.
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Competing interests: None.