India modifies definition of blindness to give correct picture

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New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) The definition of blindness has been modified, in line with WHO norms, to give a correct status of its prevalence in India as the older standard showed the country with a higher level compared to its Southeast Asian neighbours, parliament was told on Tuesday.

The National Programmme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) has also been re-designated recently as National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment (NPCB&VI), Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.

“The definition of blindness under the National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment (NPCB&VI) has been modified in line with the definition used under the World Health Organisation (WHO), i.e. ‘presenting distance visual acuity less than 3/60 (20/400) in the better eye or limitation of field of vision to be less than 10 degree from centre of fixation,” she said.

Among the main reasons behind the change is that under the earlier definition of blindness (visual acuity <6/60) used by NPCB, the prevalence of blindness in India was being shown much higher compared to other countries in Southeast Asian region.

“Globally these countries utilise the WHO criteria for estimating prevalence of blindness and the same was leading to erroneous comparison and India was seen in a poor light in eyecare at international forums,” said Patel.

The minister also said that besides blindness, the programme still attends to cases of severe impairment of vision and hence the re-designation of national programme.

“Apart from blindness, the programme is geared towards taking care of all categories of visual impairment including severely blind and also low vision cases,” said Patel.

She added that the uniformity in the definition across regions is a pre-requisite for facilitating collection of population-based data on prevalence of visual impairment in a uniform and comparable manner for estimating the global burden of blindness.

–IANS

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