Blindness in Myanmar
Myanmar is a country to the west of China that was formally known as Burma. There are 135 different ethnic groups with their own languages and cultures in the country, which creates many obstacles for implementing universal healthcare. Myanmar’s healthcare system is a mixture of public and private services, with higher quality and number of services available to the wealthy.
The Department of Public Health is mainly responsible for primary and basic healthcare services. One of the major challenges is reaching patients in remote areas because of a lack of resources and health workers.
In 1984, the government established the Trachoma Control and Prevention of Blindness Program, and since then, prevalence rates of ocular diseases have decreased consistently.
However, it is estimated that about 0.58% of the population still suffer in blindness. That is over 300,000 people! Cataracts is the leading cause of blindness in the country, followed by glaucoma and corneal pathology. A 2009 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, reported that of all blindness cases in Myanmar, over 90% were avoidable, and 81.9% were treatable. This is why organizations like SEE are so important in Myanmar: to ensure patients are able to get treatment and not have to live needlessly blind.
SEE in Myanmar
Over the years, SEE has established several partnerships throughout Myanmar with a huge focus on creating a sustainable, in-country eyecare system. Through a partnership with OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute in Mandalay, SEE provided support for 150 surgical cases in 2017. The Casey Eye Institute identified that the program’s “priorities are training mid-level healthcare personnel, instituting a pediatric vision screening program, and developing a health record database” at the Tipitaka Eye Hospital.
Every January, SEE volunteer, Dr. Richard Klein, leads a program which conducts diabetic retinopathy screenings. SEE supports the program with medical supplies and advanced surgical equipment, used to provide high-quality surgeries to about 60 patients each year.
Occasionally, SEE hosts clinics in Hsipaw with the Global Community Service Foundation. In 2016, the SEE team was led by Dr. Madhavi Reddy and 300 patients received sight-restoring surgeries.