• The Department of Health said latest figures show that 295,152 Filipinos are bilaterally blind, or blind in both eyes
  • The DOH stressed the need to integrate eye care into public health programs at the local government unit level 
  • Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said one blind family member results to two unproductive members

Now that the Sight Saving Month is being celebrated, the Department of Health (DOH) stressed the need to protect the eyes; noting that some 295,152 Filipinos are bilaterally blind or blind in both eyes.

“In the Philippines, based on the country’s 2015 population estimate, the current estimated number of persons who are bilaterally blind is 295,152 of which 59 percent is due to cataract and 14 percent due to uncorrected refractive errors. The rest are due to conditions like glaucoma, retinopathy, and maculopathy,” the agency said in a statement.

In addition, the latest data also revealed the current estimated number of persons who have low vision.

“The current estimated number of persons who have low vision (moderate to severe visual impairment) is 1,430,109; of which 60 percent is due to errors of refraction, 30 percent due to cataract and the rest due to other conditions like glaucoma,” the DOH disclosed.

With this, the agency emphasized the need to integrate eye care into public health programs at the local government unit level “for continued advocacy and promotion of comprehensive eye care with focus on avoidable blindness.”

“The development of the Community Eye Health Program (CEHP) particularly at the primary level, district, and provincial settings, will be able to make most of shared referral and service delivery network from barangay health stations, rural health units up to tertiary hospitals,” the agency said.

The CEHP started in Nueva Ecija, Iloilo, Occidental Mindoro, and Cavite. The DOH said this initiative is being expanded to poorest provinces like Eastern Samar, Leyte, and Surigao; in coordination with different Non-Government Organizations like Christoffel Blinden Mission, Fred Hollows Foundation, World Health Organization, National Committee for Sight Preservation and Cataract Foundation of the Philippines.

Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial noted that one blind family member results to two unproductive members in a family, because one is left out to take care of the blind family member. She added that this can sometimes lead to poverty and social dependency.

Moreover, the health chief gave advice to the public regarding how to take care of one’s eyes.

“Early detection and preventive care can help you keep your eyes healthy and avoid common causes of blindness. Eating food rich in Vitamin A, regular eye exam, and avoiding long exposure to gadgets and computers by following the 20-20-20 rule (Every 20 minutes, look away for 20 seconds at something that is at least 20 feet away). A healthy vision and body should always start within us,” she said.