(File photo: Reuters)
(File photo: Reuters)

Estimates of blindness reduced by 47% in 12 years: Govt survey

  • Untreated cataract remains leading cause, says the survey conducted between 2015 and 2018 by Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences of AIIMS
  • India changed its over four-decade-old definition of blindness in 2017, bringing it in line with the WHO criteria

New Delhi: The estimated prevalence of blindness in India has reduced by approximately 47% in last 12 years, while untreated cataract continue to be leading cause of blindness, a government survey has revealed.

According to the National Blindness and Visually Impaired Survey (2019) released by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday, the estimated blindness has came down to 0.36% from 1% in 2006-2007—since the last survey. According to the survey report,the visual impairment has come down by 51.9% to 2.55% as a compared to 2010.

As per the survey report, the maximum prevalence of blindness was seen in age group of above 80 (11.6%), followed by 70-79 age group (4.1%), 60-69 age group (1.6%) and 50-59 age group (0.5%). The survey noted that the most of the blindness (92.9%) and visual impairment (96.2%)cases were due to avoidable causes.

The current survey was conducted between 2015 and 2018 by Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi in association with ministry of health and family welfare. The survey covered over 93,000 people aged equal and above 50 years using Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) method in 31 districts of 24 states and Union Territories.

“People suffering from blindness have reduced from 12 million in 2006-07 to 4.8 million in 2019. This indicates that the country is close to achieving the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal of reducing it to 0.3% of the total population by 2020," said Harsh Vardhan.

“This is 47% decline and the findings of the current survey are for blindness as defined to be vision of less than 3/60 in the better eye.The WHO had set the goal of lowering the prevalence of visual impairment by 25% by 2019 as compared to 2010 levels," he said.

India changed its over four-decade-old definition of blindness in 2017, bringing it in line with the WHO criteria. According to the new definition, a person who is unable to count fingers from a distance of three metres would be considered "blind" as against the earlier stipulation of six metres, which was adopted in 1976.

The survey also revealed that in 66.2% cases the cause of blindness was untreated cataract. The survey found a higher prevalence of blindness in illiterates i.e. 3.23% in comparison to 0.43% among 10 pass and above. Further the report noting a rural urban divide, said that blindness was more prevalent in rural population i.e. 2.14% as compared to 1.80% in rural population.

Blindness was found to be lowest in Thrissur district in Kerala and in Thoubal district in Manipur whereas Bijnor distirct in Uttar Pradesh witnessed the highest prevalence. “The house-to-house survey was designed to generate representative data for the sampled districts as well as for India. An additional survey was conducted between 0-49 years age group in Jan-Feb 2019 and covered 18,000 people in six districts across various regions of India," Promila Gupta, Principal Consultant, National Programme for Control of Blindness, Ministry of Health said.

"The results of both surveys, in 0-49 age group and in equal and above 50 years population, were used to estimate the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment in India across all age group," she said.


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