Dear Readers,
Globally about 50 million people are blind, and of this figure 64% are women. This equals an age-adjusted rate of 39% greater than for men. This figure could increase to 75 million by 2020 unless increased efforts are made to prevent blindness.

World Sight Day (WSD) is an international day of awareness, held annually on the second Thursday of October to focus attention on the global issue of avoidable blindness and visual impairment. This year it falls on October 8th. The theme of World Sight Day 2009 is Gender and Eye Health - equal access to care. We have immense pleasure in sharing with you resources related to gender and eye health during this month. In this edition we provide an overview of Why is gender and blindness an issue? Several studies have been carried out in various regions of the world to understand about gender and blindness. Different strategies are being tested to address this issue and the challenges in addressing the gender inequality in eye care are also presented. We have a section on ideas that an eye care service provider can implement in the eye care organisation to improve the gender?

The organization we are featuring is vision 2020.

We wish you an experience of learning that is very practical. Your feedback will let us know how we can improve. Please send in your feedback at eyesite@aravind.org. We look forward to your feedback. Wish you a productive reading!

Happy reading!


Vision 2020 e-resource team
The Issue Features...
Equating access to eye care
Vol. 6 No. 9 September 2009
•   Why is gender and blindness an issue?
•   Studies on gender and blindness
•   Strategies on addressing this issue
•   Challenges - gender inequality in eye care
•   What can you as an organisation do?
•   Featured Organisation
•   Talk to Us


Nearly two thirds of the blind people in the world are women! In part, this disparity exists because women live longer than men-typically, by 7 years, according to 2006 data from the World Health Association. In the developed world, this translates into more women than men living with end-stage macular degeneration. In developing countries, however, more older women are blind because of cataracts compared with older men, not only because they live longer, but also because women are less likely to undergo cataract surgery than men.

Many surgeons in the developing world are unaware that women account for two thirds of the patients blinded by cataracts,1 and very few hospitals in those countries track or report the sex of the patients who seek cataract surgery. In fact, most hospitals lack a program that can educate its ophthalmic staff, managers, and the community at large about gender inequality in eye care. As a consequence, women often fail to get the treatment they need. New research and treatment initiatives, however, are beginning to address the factors that contribute to unnecessary blindness among women.


In the last decade, there has been increasing evidence that women are affected by blindness and visual impairment to a much greater degree than men. A systematic review of global population-based blindness surveys carried out between 1980 and 2000 showed that blindness is about 40 per cent more common in women compared to men (in persons older than 50 years). Since then, there have also been a number of large national surveys (for example, in Pakistan and Nigeria), as well as many rapid assessment of avoidable blindness studies (RAABs), which have confirmed the earlier findings. Here we have a collection of studies on gender and blindness which is bifurcated based on continents.


What can we do?
  1. When consulting with a community about eye care programmes or services, include women and encourage the community to involve women in decision-making.
  2. When designing services and delivering them, incorporate assistance to women, for example by providing transport to clinics or using female health workers where cultural or religious taboos exist.
  3. When conducting research or monitoring programmes, disaggregate the data by sex.


Blindness is an increasing global health problem that afflicts approximately 50 million people, two-thirds of whom are women, and ninety per cent of whom live in poorer countries. Much world blindness is due to cataract, routinely curable through surgery, or due to chronic trachoma infection, preventable through clean water and improved sanitation. The Vision 2020 initiative of the World Health Organization is addressing this problem through advocacy, planning and programming.

In poorer countries, women of all ages utilise eye care services much less than men. As a result, more women than men are blind or visually impaired from cataract, trachomatous trichiasis and angle closure glaucoma.


Global Key Messages for WSD09
  1. Nearly two-thirds of blind people worldwide are women & girls
  2. In many places, men have twice the access to eye care as women
  3. Equal access to eye care could substantially reduce blindness in poor countries
  4. Simple and effective strategies can and do successfully address this inequity within VISION 2020: The Right to Sight
  5. Don't forget:
  6. 80% of blindness is avoidable - either treatable, curable or preventable
  7. 90% of blind people live in low-income countries
  8. Cataract is the leading cause of blindness - yet it is curable by a simple, cost-effective operation
  9. 8 million people worldwide are blind due to uncorrected refractive errors. A simple sight test and glasses could restore sight to most of these people


VISION 2020: The Right to Sight

Vision 2020 - the right to sight is providing Promotional materials on WSD 09 and here is the link World Sight Day 2009.

VISION 2020: The Right to Sight
VISION 2020 is the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, a joint programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) with an international membership of NGOs, professional associations, eye care institutions and corporations.

To eliminate the main causes of avoidable blindness by the year 2020 by facilitating the planning,development and implementation of sustainable national eye care programmes based on the three core strategies of disease control, human resource development and infrastructure and technology, incorporating the principles of primary health care. This will be achieved by mobilising the will and passion for action through advocacy and by mobilising resources.

A world in which no one is needlessly blind and where those with unavoidable vision loss can achieve their full potential. The overall aim is to eliminate the main causes of avoidable blindness by the year 2020 and to prevent the projected doubling of avoidable vision impairment between 1990 and 2020. From the outset, it has been clear that the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness by the year 2020 will best be achieved by integrating an equitable, sustainable, comprehensive eye-care system into every national health system. The VISION 2020 initiative is intended to strengthen national health-care systems and facilitate national capacity-building.

  • Increase awareness, within key audiences, of the causes of avoidable blindness and the solutions to the problem;
  • Advocate for and secure the necessary resources to increase prevention and treatment activities;
  • Facilitate the planning, development and implementation of national VISION 2020 programmes in all countries.
National programmes have three main elements: cost-effective disease control, human resource development and infrastructure and technology. VISION 2020 is built on a foundation of community participation. Overarching issues, such as equity, quality of services and visual outcomes, are addressed as part of national programmes.


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Vision 2020 e-resource team,
Lions Aravind Institute of Community Ophthalmology,
1, Annanagar, Madurai - 625 020,
Tamil Nadu, India,
Phone: 91-452-2537580


  • Macular Degeneration [Sep. 2008]
  • Trachoma [Sep. 2007]
  • Tele Ophthalmology [Sep. 2006]
  • IEC [Sep. 2005]
  • Quality Cataract Series - Paramedical Contributions Module [Sep. 2004]
  • Vision Rehabilitation [Aug. 2009]
  • Amblyopia [Aug. 2008]
  • Eye Banking [Aug. 2007]
  • Medical Records in Hospitals [Aug. 2006]
  • Start up eye Hospital [Aug. 2005]
  • Sterilization Protocol [Aug. 2004]
  • Patient Empowerment [Jul. 2009]
  • Computer Vision Syndrome [Jul. 2008]
  • Diabetic Retinopathy [Jul. 2007]
  • Housekeeping in Hospitals [Jul. 2006]
  • Refractive Error [Jul. 2005]
  • Medical Records Protocol [Jul. 2004]
  • Service Marketing [Jun. 2009]
  • Creating Awareness about Eye Care [Jun. 2008]
  • Paediatric Eye Care Services [Jun. 2007]
  • Quality Assurance in Eye Care [Jun. 2006]
  • Low Vision [Jun. 2005]
  • Magnitude of Cataract Blindness Estimation Tool [Jun. 2004]
  • Medical Tourism [May. 2009]
  • Resource Utilization [May. 2008]
  • Managing People [May. 2007]
  • Refractive Correction [May. 2006]
  • Cataract [May. 2005]
  • Cataract Frequently Asked Questions [May. 2004]
  • Pharmacy Management [Apr. 2009]
  • Eye Care Barriers [Apr. 2008]
  • Ophthalmic Emergencies in Eye Care [Apr. 2007]
  • Evidence for Action - Cataract Control [Apr. 2006]
  • Paediatric Eye Care Service Delivery [Apr. 2005]
  • Introduction to SiteNews [Apr. 2004]
  • Global Eye Care Programme [Mar. 2008]
  • Eye Care Information Resource Center [Mar. 2007]
  • Leadership [Mar. 2006]
  • Strategic Planning Tools [Mar. 2005]
  • Hospital accreditation [Feb. 2009]
  • Standardization through Clinical Protocols [Feb. 2008]
  • Patient Education Resources [Feb. 2007]
  • Community Outreach - Cataract [Feb. 2006]
  • Frequently Asked Questions on Eye Glasses! [Feb. 2005]
  • Monitoring In Eye Care [Jan. 2009]
  • Materials Management in Hospitals [Jan. 2008]
  • Financial Planning for Eye Hospital [Jan. 2007]
  • Counselling [Jan. 2006]
  • Refractive Error Service Resources [Jan. 2005]