NEW YORK, May 2, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Throughout the world, untreated cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, making up 51% of all cases. Approximately 22 million people are bilaterally blind due to cataracts – with women and young girls bearing two-thirds of this terrible burden.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), population-based surveys of blindness in Africa and Asia suggest that women do not have equal access to surgery for eye diseases. Cataract blindness could be reduced by about 13% if women received cataract surgery at the same rate as men.
Furthermore, the same study shows that women are more likely to wait until they are completely blind to undergo surgery. The decision to delay treatment is often influenced by the cost of the surgery, inability to travel to a surgical facility, differences in the perceived value of surgery (cataract is often viewed as an inevitable consequence of ageing and women are less likely to receive support from within the family to seek care), and lack of access to health information.
Remarkably, through the support and the generosity of our donors, HelpMeSee is rewriting this story and transforming countless lives. Together, we've already treated more than 85,000 women across the globe.
Women Strengthen Economic Development Through Cataract Blindness Elimination
HelpMeSee recognizes the importance of women in the overall success of eliminating cataract blindness. To this end, HelpMeSee plans to implement a strategic programmatic approach, which will target women to train as MSICS Specialist and help them to establish more than 4,000 clinics in underserved regions upon graduation.
A shining example of the success behind HelpMeSee's focus on women as leaders in MSICS training is Dr. Sybil Meshramkar of the Dr. Salins Eye Hospital in Bidar, India. Dr. Sybil was introduced to the MSICS procedure while volunteering for Mercy Ships Africa where she met HelpMeSee's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Glenn Strauss. She immediately understood that this process of cataract surgery was both cost effective and safe for her patients, and began training in the procedure.
"My mother dedicated herself to transforming the lives of others through free eye surgeries in poverty-stricken Bidar, India," said Dr. Sybil. "As HelpMeSee's first trained female MSICS specialist, it means everything to me that I can help carry on that incredible legacy through the HelpMeSee campaign to eliminate cataract blindness."
Dr. Sybil added that while she was the first woman trained in MSICS under HelpMeSee, she is not alone in this incredible experience and has already helped train another 56 fellow female surgeons.
HelpMeSee Donors at the Frontline of Cataract Blindness Elimination
In honor of Mother's Day, HelpMeSee is launching an online campaign so that supporters worldwide can join in our efforts to reduce the impact that cataract blindness has on women. On the organization's website, www.HelpMeSee.org, you can click to join the Mother's Day campaign and purchase a life-transforming surgery for a woman in need for $50. Thanks to the generous support of over 90,000 donors, HelpMeSee has already made significant strides toward ending cataract blindness worldwide. Together with our surgical partners and visionary donors, more than 150,000 cataract surgeries have been conducted since 2011, transforming the lives of not only the patient, but also their family members and caregivers. Economic data has proven that when women's health is improved, the health and economic conditions of the entire family unit rise as well.
"HelpMeSee is committed to energizing women as keys to economic development in underserved communities and as leaders in cataract surgical patient care," said Mohan Jacob Thazhathu, president & CEO, HelpMeSee. "Women and young girls have traditionally carried the burden of cataract blindness throughout the world. With the support of HelpMeSee and its generous donors, women will now possess the strength, support and training to aggressively contribute to the elimination of cataract blindness – a global health issue that has blinded millions for decades."
Thazhathu added that in 2014, HelpMeSee builds on its record of success by targeting 150,000 additional sight-restoring surgeries (bringing the organization's cumulative total to 250,000), adding an additional 150 surgical partners – mostly women – (bringing our total to nearly 250), and expanding its geographic reach to Vietnam and 15 countries in West Africa.
Also in 2014, HelpMeSee continues to develop its cataract surgical training simulator and related medical courseware and e-book, and will continue pilot testing a Geographic Information System that will enable surgeons to better connect with patients, improving health outcomes. Additionally, HelpMeSee continues planning and finalizing the launch of its first global training center in China, slated for 2016. The goal is to have two training centers worldwide by 2018.
HelpMeSee (www.HelpMeSee.org) is an international nonprofit with a global mandate to eliminate cataract blindness endemic in developing countries. The HelpMeSee mission is make the sight-restoring surgery available to millions of underserved people through financial support and the training of thousands of highly skilled specialist cataract surgeons recruited from within their communities. HelpMeSee has designed and is now producing a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator based aviation training.