The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital Returns to Peru for Intensive Medical Training Program

With Alcon's support, Orbis tackles rising eye disease in Trujillo, Peru through four-week ophthalmic program

Sep 22, 2015, 09:33 ET from Orbis

NEW YORK, Sept. 22, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In collaboration with the Regional Health Management (GERESA) in La Libertad region, Orbis's Flying Eye Hospital (FEH) – the world's only accredited ophthalmic training hospital aboard a DC-10 aircraft – has returned to Trujillo, Peru for the fifth time to deliver a four-week regional ophthalmic training program. The FEH has previously visited Peru twelve times since its inception in 1982, and successfully conducted training programs in Lima, Arequipa, Chiclayo and Trujillo.

Alongside long-term partner Instituto Regional de Oftalmología (IRO), Orbis kicked off the Trujillo program yesterday, September 21, and will continue conducting training until October 16, 2015. With the generous support of Alcon, this year's Trujillo FEH program continues to strengthen IRO's capacity to deliver subspecialized eye care services and its residency program through lectures, discussion, observation and hands-on training in the areas of cataract, cornea, retina, glaucoma, oculoplastics, optometry, low vision and strabismus.

The program also provides continuing medical education tailored for local ophthalmologists, nurses, anesthesiologists, biomedical engineers and technicians, as well as other allied eye care professionals. Two Alcon biomedical engineers from the United States will volunteer their time to provide technical support and share their expertise with local technicians on managing and maintaining the ophthalmic equipment at IRO during the Trujillo program.

While cataract remains the leading cause of blindness globally, diabetes is becoming an increasingly common disease around the world due to lifestyle changes. Global studies estimate that there will be a 69 percent increase in the number of adults with diabetes in the developing world between 2010 and 20301. As its prevalence increases, so do its complications, including diabetic retinopathy (DR), which is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina and can lead to irreversible blindness if not detected and treated early.

In 2012, the International Diabetes Federation reported a 6.81 percent prevalence rate of diabetes in Peru. According to Lions International Eye Foundation, of the 2 million people in La Libertad region, there are an estimated 54,841 diabetic patients over 30 years old, but only half of them have been diagnosed. Another report by the Ministry of Health showed that over 75 percent of patients who have had diabetes for more than 20 years will develop some kind of ophthalmic complication, including cataract and diabetic retinopathy2. If it is not treated early, DR can lead to neovascular glaucoma, which is a blinding and painful eye disease.

"To tackle the growing problem of diabetic eye diseases in this region, La Libertad Regional Health Management issued a Diabetic Retinopathy Regional Directive in April 2013, which dictates that all diabetic patients must have an ophthalmic evaluation every year," said Dr. Jaime Huamán, Executive Director of IRO. "Since then, IRO and Orbis have been working together to implement the directive by integrating eye care in the health facility network at all levels under the support of GERESA."

To minimize the eye complications that result from diabetes, public health education targeting the general public and diabetic patients is needed. The Directive also addresses several challenges that impede patients with diabetes from accessing comprehensive eye health services. These include both institutional challenges, such as weak health facility referral systems and few protocols for patient monitoring, and challenges amongst individuals in the population, such as diabetic patients who may not recognize symptoms and do not seek immediate medical attention.

"Diabetic eye diseases are the eye problems people with type 1 or 2 diabetes may have that can lead to vision loss or blindness. These include cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, which is most commonly seen in diabetic patients," said Dr. Jonathan Lord, Global Medical Director of Orbis. "However, 95 percent of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be prevented by early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up. So it's important for the patients to have a dilated eye exam with a trained eye doctor at least once a year."

In January 2014, Orbis launched a three-year project with GERESA and IRO focused on the prevention of blindness due to diabetic retinopathy. The project aims to enable adequate eye screening for at least 80 percent of people with diabetes, strengthen the referral system in health facilities and provide timely treatment at IRO for diabetic patients suffering from DR in La Libertad region. By leveraging Orbis's unique FEH, the Trujillo program will also help promote the current DR project by creating public awareness in the region on the prevention, control and health consequences of diabetes, including diabetic eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy and cataract.

Orbis initiated its long-term partnership with IRO to develop the first pediatric unit in northern Peru in 2002. Since then, IRO has conducted several multi-year projects focusing on cataract, retina, cornea, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and refractive error in school children in conjunction with Orbis. Orbis has also invested in improving IRO's management capacity and delivery of services to support its growth as a specialized institute, a patient referral destination and a resident training center.

Alcon has also been a longtime global sponsor of Orbis by donating its medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and supplies to the FEH and hospital-based programs. "Alcon's partnership with Orbis of more than three decades is grounded in our shared vision of providing access to quality eye care around the world," said Bettina Maunz, President, Alcon Foundation. "The Trujillo program gives us the opportunity to partner with Orbis to combat the growing diabetic eye diseases in the northern region of Peru."

About Orbis
Orbis transforms lives through access to quality eye care. Working in collaboration with local partners including hospitals, universities, government agencies and ministries of health, Orbis provides hands-on ophthalmology training, strengthens healthcare infrastructure and advocates for supportive policies. Orbis envisions a world where no one is needlessly blind or visually impaired. To learn more about Orbis, please visit

About Alcon
Alcon, the global leader in eye care, provides innovative products that enhance quality of life by helping people see better. Alcon's three businesses, Surgical, Pharmaceutical and Vision Care, offer the widest spectrum of eye care products in the world. Alcon is a division of the Novartis Group, with pro-forma sales of USD 10.8 billion in 2014. Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Alcon has more than 25,000 employees worldwide, operations in 75 countries and products available in 180 markets.  For more information, visit

Media Contacts:
Silvana Vivas
Communications Coordinator, Orbis 

Elizabeth Murphy
Director, Global External Communications, Alcon

1 Shaw JE, "Global estimates of the prevalence of diabetes in 2010 and 2030," Diabetes Research in Clinical Practice, 2010 Jan; 87 (1):4-414.
2 Ministerio de Salud. Peru estimaciones y proyecciones de la población total por años y edades simples 1950 -2050. Dirección General de Epidemiologia; 2009.



Photo - 
Photo -
Photo - 
Logo -