Ghana on Wednesday, launched activities to mark the 2018 World Glaucoma week, aimed at raising global awareness and for people to have regular eye check-up’s for early detection of glaucoma to preserve sight.
Glaucoma is among a group of progressive and chronic eye diseases, which destroys the nerves that connect the eyeball to the brain, it has no known symptoms or cure and it’s hereditary or can result from injury.
However, early detection and treatment with medication and surgery could help stop or control its progression, and would require life-long follow-ups.
The week-long programme, on the theme “Green=Go: Get your eye tested for Glaucoma, Save your Sight”, would be nationally marked with activities such as a free glaucoma eye screening on Saturday March 17 at the Osu Eben-ezer church hall, from 0900 to 1400 hours, and also radio and television talk shows, to create more awareness and educate the public on the importance of early detection and management of the disease.
Madam Tina Menash, the Deputy Minister of Health, at the media launch of the 11th Annual Glaucoma Week in Accra, encouraged the public to go for regular check-ups and also insist on being screened for the disease at each visit, and urged all health facilities across the country to provide free glaucoma eye screening during this and subsequent annual commemorations.
She affirmed the Ministry’s commitment to support the Glaucoma Association of Ghana (GAG) and its partners, to intensify public awareness and education on the disease for early screening and treatment.
Dr James Addy, the Head of the Eye Care Unit of the Ghana Health Service, said glaucoma was currently the second leading and most common cause of irreversible blindness globally, aside cataract.
He said currently 700,000 Ghanaians were living with glaucoma, out of which 60,000 had already gone blind, adding that, fairly very young patients between the ages of nine and 10 years were being diagnosed with the disease,
This he said calls for an intensified public education and governments commitment to set aside funding to address the issue, which is very crucial to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.
Worldwide, 60.5 million people were estimated to have had glaucoma in 2010, and the figure could further rise to 79.6 million by 2020, with the global prevalence of populations aged between 40 to 80 years being 3.54 per cent, he said.
Dr Addy in an update on glaucoma activities, said the country presently had an integrated programme for the general prevention of blindness, which was listed as a priority in the national plan, under which the Glaucoma Association of Ghana (GAG) had been established to champion education and awareness creation, develop and implement management guidelines to address any challenges.
The country had also developed a national data on the prevalence and causes of vision impairment from the Ghana Blindness and Visual Impairment Study, which was launched in 2017, as well as a population-based indicator for glaucoma, which was being monitored on the Health Information Management Systems.
Dr Addy called for the training of more glaucoma experts, saying that, there were currently, only five of such specialists as at the end of 2017.
Ghana he said, has 1,275 eye health workforces, made up of 91 Ophthalmologists, 70 of whom were based in the Greater Accra and Ashanti regions, with the rest in the other eight regions, as well as 370 Optometrists, 500 Ophthalmic Nurses and 314 Opticians.
He requested for an enhanced training for these range of health personnel, the expanded use of technology for the effective management of the disease, efficient referral systems, improved financing for glaucoma activities, as well as public education.
Mr Harrison Kofi Abutiate, the President of the Glaucoma Association of Ghana, commended the government for reducing the cost of imported drugs for the treatment of the disease by 30 per cent, saying it would help ease the financial burden on patients.
He called for financial support from both public and private institutions, including the media and individuals, to intensify the GAG’s awareness campaigns, saying, the disease was genetically connected, with risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes, and could affect all classes of persons, therefore collaborating to reduce the negative impact on society as a whole was very important.