Director of Sri Sankaradeva Nethralaya (SSN), Dr Harsha Bhattacharjee raises concern regarding the uneven distribution of the healthcare system. Talking to Northeast Now, Dr Bhattacharjee highlights the importance of primary healthcare and healthcare education to raise awareness among people.
“The distribution of the healthcare system is uneven. Around 80 percent people in Assam reside in the rural areas but the healthcare facilities are available in town or urban areas. So there is a wide gap,” Dr Bhattacharjee said.
Highlighting the major eye conditions prevalent in Assam, Dr Bhattacharjee said, “There is a high prevalence of paediatric eye cancer in Assam, more than the national average. It is a genetic problem. Although it cannot be prevented, it has a 100% curable rate if found at the first stage.”
Eye cancer among children needs to be screened and detected within two years of age.
“The main strategy is early screening and early treatment. There are seven warning signs of which one is the white papillary reflex. In general, people approach doctors at an advanced stage which becomes a barrier. There is a lack of awareness among people,” he added.
SSN also undertakes screening in schools through which over thousand teachers were trained to help screen children for eye conditions.
SSN also spearheaded an integrated approach by combining preventive immunization and eye care as part of their rural outreach programme. Through this initiative, over 4000 surgical cases were identified.
In December 2017, 140 villages of Dimoria development block in Sonapur were declared as being free of preventable blindness by Governor Jagdish Mukhi.
Regarding geriatric eye care, Dr Bhattacharjee said, “In recent years, diabetic retinopathy (also known as diabetic eye disease) is a rising condition among adults and the elderly. Every diabetic patient is susceptible to this condition.”
Apart from that, cataract and glaucoma are the commonly found issues among the middle aged population.
Further, Dr Bhattachrjee added, “The need of the hour is to intensify primary healthcare facilities and also implement healthcare education in mission mode which would lessen the burden of healthcare. Usually, when one starts suffering from a disease, only then they get to know about that health condition. ”
There is also a need to raise awareness regarding eye donation so that organ transplantation can be carried out, Dr Bhattacharjee said. He also added that female access to treatment is much restricted which could be ascribed to gender inequity.