[dehai-news] (Publicaffairs.ubc) UBC Eye Doctors Establish African Centre

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From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (eritrea.lave@comhem.se)
Date: Fri Jul 01 2005 - 18:05:45 EDT

The following is an excerpt from the article: "The demand for training
has grown so that doctors and other eye care professionals have come
from countries across the continent - Ghana to Eritrea to Madagascar,"
says Courtright. "
UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 12 | Dec. 4, 2008
UBC Eye Doctors Establish African Centre

By Catherine Loiacono
To Dr. Paul Courtright, improving the lives of others means taking a
hands-on approach to reducing blindness in Africa.
An ophthalmic epidemiologist in UBC's Department of Ophthalmology,
Courtright studies the prevalence of eye disease among populations.
Working in Africa, he has found there are many community issues that
contribute to increased blindness - particularly for women.
"Research shows that women represent two-thirds of blind people in the
world," says Courtright. "The high rate of blindness among women in
Africa is as much of a societal issue as it is a need for adequate
resources. For example, the social standing of women often prevents them
from seeking treatment."
Courtright adds that women in some of these countries do not have
decision-making authority within families and communities. This limits
their access to surgical services, and the health care systems do little
to enable individuals to come in and get treatment.
According the World Health Organization the leading causes of chronic
blindness include cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, trachoma,
and eye conditions in children. Three-quarters of all blindness can be
prevented or treated.
Courtright's passion for research and treating blindness led to the
establishment of The British Columbia Centre for Epidemiologic and
International Ophthalmology (BCEIO) in 1995 at UBC. The centre is an
international advocacy and teaching program that focuses on building
local capacity to prevent and treat blindness, and provides teaching in
research methods and data management.
"The BCEIO is instrumental in developing research and training tools,"
says Courtright. "However, to truly have an impact and to enable change
we needed to be on the ground working with local providers and
communities and applying what we are learning."
His family moved to Moshi, Tanzania, and with help from the BCEIO and
Seva Canada Courtright and his wife, Dr. Susan Lewallen, also an
ophthalmologist at UBC, established the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community
Ophthalmology (KCCO) in 2001.
"We are working at it from both ends, from a community perspective and
from a healthcare provider perspective," says Lewallen. "At KCCO, we are
not training surgeons, but rather we train people on how to set up
programs that support the surgeons in accomplishing their work. Surgeons
on their own really can't do much -- they need to be supported by a team
that keeps the clinic running smoothly and conducts outreach to bring
patients in from the rural communities."
KCCO is the only training institution for community ophthalmology in
Africa dedicated to reducing blindness. It serves 18 eastern African
countries with a population of close to 210 million, from Egypt to South
Africa. KCCO directs critically needed projects and collaborations to
bring eye-care treatment and preventative services to surrounding rural
"The demand for training has grown so that doctors and other eye care
professionals have come from countries across the continent - Ghana to
Eritrea to Madagascar," says Courtright. "Some of the programs assisted
by KCCO have seen two and three-fold increases in eye care services
provided. Our work has already demonstrated that the number of cataract
surgeries in programs serving rural communities can be increased by 300
per cent."
One of the projects, in collaboration with the BCEIO, involves selecting
local female leaders who are trained in eye conditions and simple
promotion techniques. They are asked to visit households, meet with and
counsel family members and refer people in need of eye care services.
To address blindness in children, the KCCO and BCEIO set up a program
for getting children to hospital and ensuring adequate follow up with
glasses and low vision care.
"The most significant development during the last two years was
expansion of a community-based program to provide long-term
post-operative care for children with cataracts," says Ken Bassett,
professor and division head of the BCEIO.
The next step for Courtright is to bring blindness and gender issues to
the forefront of the international agenda. He, along with other
colleagues, will be participating in a meeting with other international
leaders in Washington, D.C. next spring.
"In many ways treating blindness has become a tool and entry way into
the system," says Courtright. "We are definitely making an impact on
reducing blindness. But really, we want to change systems beyond eye
care services -- primarily at the health provider level but also at the
community level."
The work of Courtright and Lewallen has not gone unnoticed. The world's
largest association of eye care professionals, the American Academy of
Ophthalmology, awarded them the 2008 International Blindness Prevention

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