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The role of education in preventing blindness worldwide

Around the world, 36 million people are blind, as of 2015. One part of the world where visual impairment and blindness is in particular crisis is India. A major cause of blindness is poverty, which can lead to a lack of education and access to healthcare.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that as of 2010, nearly eight million people in India were blind, while another 54 million were visually impaired. But three quarters of these cases are, sadly, avoidable.

And blindness has massive human and socioeconomic consequences, from the economic burden on families, individuals and society due to lost productivity, medication and rehabilitation, not to mention the suffering and stress it brings to families. Treatment alone includes the costs for running medical health services, pharmaceuticals, as well as research and administration.

Blindness also costs in terms of the loss of earnings of visually impaired people, and their caregivers, as well as costs for visual aids, equipment and home modifications, welfare payments and of course, the pain, and decreased quality of life can also bring with it.

Intervention in the form of support, expertise and aid to help eradicate blindness needs to be done at a population level – including public health campaigns to educate people on the causes of corneal blindness, the symptoms to look out for and the importance of seeking treatment early. The main risk factors are ageing, injury, certain eye diseases, diabetes, ultraviolet irradiation and smoking. Cataract in children is due mostly caused by genetic disorders.

The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute (TKCI) and its founder, billionaire philanthropist Tej Kohli, aims to eradicate all cases of preventable blindness around the world by 2030. It’s a bold objective – but it is possible.

The Institute knows that one of the best ways to do this effectively, and for the long-term, is by educating and training people to provide lifechanging preventative measures and treatment including medical interventions, eye examinations and corneal transplants. India currently has 8,000 optometrists, but they need 40,000 to be able to cover care for the entire population.

From its base at the world-renowned LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute provides treatment for corneal diseases across three centres.

For our founder Tej Kohli, philanthropy is absolutely crucial, and central to this is the acknowledgement of the importance of education for the next generation. And the work has already begun. This year, the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute and LVPEI faculty mentored 178 young trainee ophthalmologists from all over the country at the annual postgraduate education program Eye PEP 2018 in October. The program also included a hands-on training session on basic cornea surgery, and provided students with opportunity to talk to experts in the field.

For Tej Kohli, philanthropy is crucial to securing the welfare of future generations, and eradicating preventable blindness is a cause right at the heart of India’s future economic and social success.

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