CBI Builds Eye Health Facilities, Trains Ophthalmic Technicians
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Throughout this year, Combat Blindness International (CBI) has been celebrating 35 years of progress in reducing avoidable blindness around the world.
Thanks to strong allies like you, we’ve made tremendous strides since 1984, having supported over 2.25 million eye screenings and more than 370,000 sight-saving cataract surgeries. That’s something to be proud of!
Working with partners in India, Myanmar, Lebanon, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Mali, Namibia, Botswana, Paraguay, Brazil and the United States, CBI is on the forefront of creating sustainable solutions in eye care.
In this second installment of our two-part article, we’re pleased to share a closer look at CBI’s major achievements in building infrastructure and supporting ophthalmic technical training
In the early days of CBI, cataract surgeries were performed by removing the clouded lens of the eye and giving patients glasses with very thick lenses so they could see. Unfortunately, providing these “coke bottle” glasses was not a sustainable solution, as many would lose or break their glasses and then they were blind again. We knew this was not the best option.
In the United States, we remove the cataract and place a plastic lens, called an intraocular lens, inside the eye, so a patient does not need glasses. The problem was that the cost of the intraocular lens was several hundred dollars, and it was unaffordable for patients in low-income countries.
That is why we took steps to find a more affordable solution by partnering with local eye hospitals.
In 1992, CBI collaborated with two other organizations to establish Aurolab, an intraocular lens manufacturing facility at Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India. Aurolab was able to produce high-quality intraocular lenses at a cost of just $2 to $3. This was a game-changer. Now, we were able to provide the same cataract surgery as here in the United States at a cost of just $25 in all our projects around the world.
In 1997 we took our efforts to the next level by supporting the addition of a suture factory at Aurolab, further expanding the availability of affordable medical supplies. Over the years, we also have provided much-needed funding for other ophthalmological supplies and equipment, including vans to transport patients, glasses, and surgical equipment.
The next major phase of our infrastructure development strategy involved supporting the creation of surgical centers in rural areas. We inaugurated our very first Community Surgical Center in Rampur, India, in 2009. As a result, we’ve been able to meet the needs of people where they are at the local level, and treat cataracts, glaucoma and other eye pathologies before they escalate to larger problems.
In 2016, we began construction on a hospital in Odisha, India, as part of our partnership with the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute. The Bijayananda Patnaik Eye Hospital was completed in 2018 and serves a population of up to 2 million in the surrounding area. All of our infrastructure projects have helped to improve the quality and access to eye care for those especially in underserved, remote areas.
Delivering Technical Training
The shortage of trained eye-care professionals is one of the major obstacles facing eye-care programs and global health worldwide, but nowhere more so than in the developing world.
Since 2015, CBI has worked with Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in New Delhi, India, to train and empower young women to become Certified Ophthalmic Paramedics.
These mid-level professionals are able to perform some of the same functions of traditional ophthalmologists, allowing them to fulfill a variety of vital roles, including ophthalmic nursing assistants, vision technicians, medical records and registration specialists, and patient counselors — in just two years of training. Certified Ophthalmic Paramedics reduce the strain on the ophthalmologists, so they can focus on sight-restoring procedures and surgeries.
Thus far, the program has trained more than 400 women to support the efforts of Indian ophthalmologists and eye centers.
In addition to supporting mid-level ophthalmic professionals, CBI works with our partners around the world to provide training for ophthalmologists. Through short-term fellowships and hands-on clinical and surgical training, we are building the skills and knowledge of the next generation of ophthalmologists so they may better care for their communities.
The Journey Ahead
The need to alleviate avoidable blindness continues to be a global challenge. CBI will continue to expand our existing Cataracts and Pediatric Programs, and will help wherever there is need around the world. In addition, CBI wants to grow the Certified Ophthalmic Paramedic program to increase the number of young women we can educate and empower. Looking forward, South America, Africa and the Middle East are among the areas where we hope to expand our efforts in the future.
It’s difficult to sum up 35 years of our work. Much has changed, but one thing has stayed the same, and that is our firm belief in the impact of restoring a person’s sight. With your continued support, we can work together to change people’s lives and make a difference.