Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Belize. In 2001 Sight Savers International and BCVI, in partnership with the International Centre for Eye Health in the UK and the Pan American Health Organization, started a research programme to identify the best aproach to providing early intervention for patients with early stage glaucoma and identifying the best treatment.
Phase 1 of the project involved examining popular perceptions of glaucoma & blindness and was conducted throughout the country. Phase 2 consisted of a pilot communication programme based on the findings of Phase 1 and included community clinics and took place in the south of Belize in the Stann Creek District. This six-month pilot of Phase 2 concluded in February of 2003. It was very successful and an in-depth report was published in International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness‘ Journal.
Phase 3 took place in November 2003 and involved confirming the diagnosis of the patients referred from the clinics in the previous phase & providing treatment. The aim was to identify & treat 40 people with the early stages of glaucoma and while not enough patients were found, our doctors discovered, through the programme, that most people do not get regular check-ups and therefore do not detect glaucoma in its earliest stages.
With this important piece of information in mind, we set out to replicate the Glaucoma Project in the Belize District in January 2004.
A Communication Programme was set up through television, radio & newspaper articles, shows & advertisements to teach residents about glaucoma and encourage them to get their eyes tested.
We examined over 1,000 patients and have found several patients with glaucoma. While some patients were in the early stages, most had neglected their vision and the disease had progressed & worsened. The project did prove extremely beneficial in finding refractive errors, and over 700 people received prescription eye glasses.
We will continue to encourage Belizeans to visit an optometrist regularly, to avoid irreversible blindness and to keep their eyes healthy