President calls for public-private collaboration to fight blindness

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 17, 2013 17:00 hrs

Hyderabad, Jan 17 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee Thursday called upon private sector to join hands with government in fighting blindness and visual impairment.

Inaugurating the 28th Congress of the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology (APAO), he said that the government alone would not be able to combat blindness as effectively as collaborative ventures or the initiatives the two can together forge.

"Private sector companies and government institutions should, therefore, join hands to fight blindness and visual impairment. The private sector companies should not consider this a burden but as a way of discharging their social obligations.

"The private sector would also help in increasing their sales and earnings through reduction in the incidence of blindness and poverty and the resulting increase in the prosperity in the society," he said.

Mukherjee said the need for collaborative initiatives was important as even comparatively simple interventions at the appropriate time would help prevent blindness. He also advised individual doctors to contribute one or two days in a month for social service.

"With the help of other voluntary organizations, medical teams could travel to the interiors of the country in mobile operation theatres. If the local medical associations like the Indian Medical Association can take this initiative in collaboration with the non-governmental organizations in towns and districts, it would make a distinct difference," he said.

The president lauded the efforts of the All India Ophthalmological Society and the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology in fighting blindness. He said programmes like the National Programme for Control of Blindness yielded appreciable results.

Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO), he said the number of blind people is estimated to go up to 76 million by 2020.

"Poverty predisposes an individual to blindness and it increases the economic burden by curtailing employment opportunities and diversion of resources for its treatment. Empirical studies show that low incomes not only contribute to higher incidence of blindness but 64 percent of the disabled slip into to poverty after the onset of visual impairment."

The president quoted a study by the University of California that about 85 percent of all visual impairment and 75 percent of blindness in the world could have been either prevented or cured.

"It has particular relevance for the less developed countries as around 90 percent of the world's blind reside in developing countries," he noted.

About 1,000 delegates from all over the world are attending the four-day congress which is being held in conjunction with the 71st annual conference of All India Ophthalmological Society (AIOS).

APAO-AIOS 2013 will throw light on the recent advances and latest developments in the field of ophthalmology and provide an opportunity for the participants to interact, discuss and exchange ideas with international ophthalmic experts.

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