AIM To re-survey the Gambia after an interval of 10 years to assess the impact of a national eye care programme (NECP) on the prevalence of blindness and low vision.
METHOD Comparison of two multistage cluster random sample surveys taking into account the marked increase in population in the Gambia, west Africa. Samples of the whole population in 1986 and 1996 were taken. The definition of blindness is presenting vision less than 3/60 in the better eye, or visual fields constricted to less than 10° from fixation. Low vision is less than 6/18 but 3/60 or better. Causes of blindness were determined clinically by three ophthalmologists.
RESULTS The crude prevalence of blindness fell from 0.70% to 0.42%, a relative reduction of 40%. During the same 10 year period, the population increased by 51% from 775 000 to 1 169 000. When the results were standardised for age, a west to east gradient was found for changes in risk of blindness over the 10 year period. This matched the phased west to east introduction of the NECP interventions. There was a modest but significant increase in the risk of low vision across the whole country.
CONCLUSIONS The overall reduction in risk of blindness, in those areas where the NECP has been active, appears to justify the programme and the support of donor organisations. The low vision cases due to cataract must now be addressed.
- eye care programme
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