Child awaiting surgery.

World Health Day

April 2018

This World Health Day, we are reaffirming our commitment to help bring quality eye care to everyone, no matter where they are born. This means ensuring the right people have the right skills to identify and deal with challenges effectively.

This World Health Day the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital is in Peru, where Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is one of the leading eye health challenges.

ROP affects premature babies exclusively. The impact is devastating: if not treated in time, babies will begin their lives irreversibly blind. However, with the right awareness, knowledge and equipment the condition is entirely preventable.

When we began working in Peru, most hospitals had little to no resource to deal with this condition. Awareness of the condition’s existence, let alone its potential impact, was very low.

The Flying Eye Hospital has visited the country six times. Each visit has been invaluable in training more health workers to better understand and treat ROP and other conditions.

A Peruvian mother holds a baby up, dressed in a sailor top

7.3% of babies are born prematurely in Peru

Visits from the Flying Eye Hospital are just one of the ways that our work prevents blindness.

In Peru, we established a long term partnership with local hospital, Instituto Damos Vision. Through this partnership together we have trained over 1000 health workers across the entire eye care team, including pediatricians, nurses, biomedical engineers and ophthalmologists. At the same time we have worked with thousands of parents to teach them about the disease.

Ongoing training for health workers has been available through our telemedicine portal, Cybersight. In Peru doctors have used this tool to watch surgical demonstrations, consult expert volunteers around the world on cases, and receive 1-1 mentoring, including for live surgery.

Alone, these efforts would not have been enough to make the progress we have in our Peruvian projects. But combined, these three elements have led to long term lasting change, leaving a legacy for future health workers.

A team of Orbis doctors in training in Trujillo, Peru

Orbis training in 2011

Globally, Peru is not alone in needing support with eye health training. There is a worldwide shortage of eye health workers, and there is inequality in the number of health workers between and within countries.

Whilst we’ve made progress in preventing avoidable blindness, we face challenges ahead: as the global population of blind people is set to triple by 2050, the need for trained eye health workers will become starker.

Orbis is working with partners to look at how we can help keep pace. New ways of working and training will be required. Mobile-health and investment in community and primary eye health services mean eye screening can take place far from hospitals – in schools or community centres.

With less time spent on screening, specialist eye health workers can focus on delivering complex diagnoses and treatments, and we can reach more people.

Orbis school screening.

school screening in Panchgani

At Orbis, we will continue to work with our partners and harness technology to provide eye care for all.

We will also continue to advocate for eye health to be a priority: for example, to ensure that eye health and eye health workers are included in national health plans and budgets.

Everyone, everywhere should be able to access the essential health services they need.​ We strive to ensure that the right people have the right skills to provide quality eye care to those that need it – wherever and whoever they are. No one should lose their sight because of where they were born.