October 26, 2012

Through the ORBIS Lens: ORBIS in Zambia

“Through the ORBIS Lens” is a collection of photos showcasing the issues surrounding global eye health. Each week ORBIS will share our best photographs highlighting our efforts to eliminate avoidable blindness around the world. 

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Children smiling for the camera in Kitwe, Zambia at an ORBIS Hospital Based Program at the Kitwe Central Eye Hospital in 2011. 

Learn more about ORBIS's work in Zambia by going here: http://bit.ly/THwezf

Photo: Yazeed Kamaldien

December 08, 2011

The Great Ethiopian Run: Lasting Memories

Blog submitted by Charlotte Coleman-Smith

Charlotte Coleman-Smith is one of the 30,000 people who took part in Africa’s biggest road race –The Great Ethiopian Run, a challenging 10km at 10,000 feet above sea level.  She is part of the ORBIS Ireland team who took on this massive challenge in November. Charlotte shares with us her feelings after the race.

It's now a week since I arrived back from Addis. Last night, I was out with friends who were asking me about the Run. Above the noise of a busy restaurant, I found myself summing up the incredible trip. There were so many different threads to it that I struggled to weave them together into a coherent whole. In fact, each time I’m asked, I seem to come up with a new pattern, which is surely a reflection of the complexity of feeling that comes out of such an experience.

Great Ethiopian Run

First, of course, I tell them that it was brilliant, and one of the best things I’ve done. Then, to explain the hoarseness of my voice, I get sidetracked into discussing the intensity of the schedule and the packed programme we followed from the moment we landed. I might tell them about the traditional meal on the first night; watching the great Haile Gebrselassie dance the night before the Run; the Irish ambassador’s reception up in the hills; the final late night of clubbing in Addis and the two-hour sleep which came before the flight home. I’ll describe the great craic we all had as a group, and in our own little sub-sets (apparently, we were the ‘Yummy Mummies’. I like that).

But most of all, I want to get across to my friends the warmth of the welcome we found in Ethiopia, how worthwhile all of the training and fundraising felt as soon as we were touring the hospital and hearing from those who work in the field about the way the ORBIS money is spent. We were in Ethiopia for a very brief time, yet it was long enough to get a sense that this is an incredibly varied country, which is so much more than the sum of all the news stories of the past few decades.

Great Ethiopian Run 2

There’s incredible poverty and hardship – we saw this on every roadside, and particularly on the outskirts of Addis Ababa - but also a growing middle class, an economy that’s getting ever stronger, and a confidence and pride that shines out. This was very clear to me during the Run, as groups of friends, families and colleagues came together to celebrate the national sport, and simply to enjoy being who they are.

We, of course, were lucky enough to have a lot of fun while doing our bit for charity. This was, after all, predominantly an Irish group. Perhaps some might take issue with that. But in order to become ambassadors for ORBIS, I reckon it’s better for the participants to come home with a positive feeling about the country and people they are trying to help.

I would love to return and see more; perhaps travel south to the ORBIS projects. But even if I don’t, the trip to Addis Ababa of November 2011 will give me material for stories for a very long time. Perhaps these stories might persuade others to do their bit for ORBIS in years to come – if only so they can beat me at my own game!

November 30, 2011

Poverty, Cost-Effectiveness and Eye Care

Blog submitted by Barbara A. DeBuono, MD, MPH

Barbara A. DeBuono, MD, MPH is President and CEO of ORBIS

Cost-effective analysis is a measure that is discussed frequently in the context of healthcare in the United States. This process compares the costs and the benefits of a healthcare-related intervention. In the field of eye care it is clear that the benefits outweigh the cost.

On World Sight Day, I had the opportunity to attend a VISION 2020 congressional briefing in Washington DC with other eye care partners and government officials. The theme of the event was Cost Effectiveness of Blindness Prevention Activities. The event featured a presentation by Dr. Kevin Frick, professor at John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and an expert in calculating cost-effectiveness of health care.

We all know that the cost of blindness and visual impairment in the United States is enormous. According to Dr. Frick, in the United States a blind individual aged 40 or older spends an extra $2587 on medical care every year. In 2008, the estimated United States societal medical cost of all blind individuals was $2.7 billion.1 Imagine what this would look like on a global scale.

When we apply these factors to the developing world, this cost goes beyond an economic and financial burden. Yet, we do not have strong data and research to support this assumption. What we do know is that blindness and visual impairment impact quality of life. In these communities, these conditions can hinder an individual’s ability to gain an education, gain employment and contribute to family financial stability. Ultimately, this can trap a family in a cycle of poverty. Studies have shown for example that individuals with cataract are more likely to be poor than those with normal vision.2

There has been little research to examine the correlation between blindness and poverty. ORBIS and partners in South Africa are currently working to help fill this gap. Using results of a household survey conducted by the South African War on Poverty Initiative, ORBIS and partners collected data regarding eye care in poor South African households. This will be followed by an analysis of the relationship between factors such as disability, access to healthcare and blindness. The results will be shared with the South African government for planning and advocacy purposes.  Examining blindness in the context of poverty can serve as a powerful advocacy tool for increased budget and attention to eye care services.

This is the data and information we need to put eye health on the global agenda. At ORBIS we hope to continue to work with global partners and use such data to advocate for increased eye care services and blindness prevention globally.

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Children perform at the opening celebration for the ORBIS supported Pediatric Eye Care Center in Durban, South Africa in partnership with the KwaZulu Natal (KZN) Department of Health. 

1. Frick, K. “Cost-Effectiveness of Blindness Prevention” Vision 2020 World Sight Day 2012 Congressional Briefing. Washington DC

2. International Center for Eye Health. (2009). Cataract Impact Study: Summary report. Retrieved from https://www.iceh.org.uk/display/WEB/Cataract+impact+study#