Our vision is not gender blind

On October 9, 2009, in blindness, onchocerciasis, by Karen Grepin

The image of a young boy leading his blind elder is common to many who have lived or traveled in rural parts of Africa. It is this image that has been captured in a series of statues located around the world to celebrate the phenomenal partnership that has been developed to address onchocerciasis – or River Blindness. Thanks to this partnership, millions of people are now receiving vision saving protection through the community directed treatment with ivermectin approach. It is a tremendous achievement.

However this image, that many now associated with blindness in developing countries, is not reflective of the fact that it is women – not men – who bear the bulk of the burden of blindness around the world. There are twice as many women who are blind than men.

Today, October 8 is World Sight Day. Vision2020 has used today to help spread the world about the great gender inequality that exists in the world when it comes to blindness. There are a number of reasons for this, first the chances of developing blindness increase with age, and women tend to live longer than men. Women have less access to health services than men, so they are less likely to get care when it is needed. Finally some forms of blindness, in particular blindness caused by trachoma, are more likely to occur in women. For trachoma, children are natural reservoirs of trachoma bacteria and women spend more time with children than men.

Over 80% of the 45 million cases of blindness in the world were preventable and almost 90% of blindness cases occur in the developing world. Some people think that it will take expensive hospital based procedures to eliminate blindness but there are many community based treatments that can be applied at low cost with great results.

To read more about blindness, I will point you to the Vision2020 website.

The second photo is from a special exhibit on Blindness hosted by the Fred Hallows Foundation. For more information please click here.

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2 Responses to “Our vision is not gender blind”

  1. http://lohasian.blogspot.com/ says:

    In the western world, we have lost touch with the basic concept of true health, not to mention eye health. We substitute a band-aid for a cure and wonder why we don't feel better.
    However, vision health is intertwined with poverty problems too.

  2. drikfaith says:

    I agree entirely here with you Karen.A high rate of DALY'S would suffice from blindness to women especially in Africa.Women are more frequently exposed to circumstances that could result in blindness.A similar study has shown increased prevalence of Pterygium and Cataract in women in this region.Both types of eye disease result from exposure to dust(e.g farming) and smoke (e.g cooking with firewood )and are potential causes of blindness,women being more prone.

    Ikenna Umechukwu MD,MPH(c) New York University.

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