Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said the National Eye Survey of Trinidad and Tobago (NESTT) will collect valuable data from about 10,000 participants to assist citzens battling eye diseases, including glaucoma, diabetes and cataracts.
The Minister made the comment on Friday at a news conference to announce the successful implementation of the National Eye Survey of T&T, at the conference room of the Ministry of Health, Park Street, Port of Spain.
The National Eye Survey began its data collection in October 2013 in St James and is expected to be completed between October to November.
The model was created by Prof Rupert Horne, of Cambridge University in England.
It is expected to move to communities, including St Augustine, San Fernando and Tobago.
The NESTT was guided by data which said “32 million people in the world are blind, but 80 per cent don’t need to be”.
“It took a lot of work to make the project a success,” said Minister Khan. “There is no data on the burden of eye diseases from diabetes which is wreaking havoc on the East Indian population. And we have the African population with hypertension. Put them together and we have a problem of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). We have found thousands of people with eye problems. We need to develop a pathway for them to be treated differently...a lot of work went into it.”
Khan added: “It is about the creation of a project that will give meaningful results and the data to provide meaningful services. Believe in the project and commit to it. The data is important for local and international experts.”
He paid kudos to those who had been working pro bono to get the project completed, including Braithwaite and Ramsewak.
“I want to pay total tribute to the excellent staff who worked on the project.”
Prof Samuel Ramsewak, chief investigator of NESTT also said people tend to take eyesight for granted, but it was mandatory to develop a policy and implement appropriate mechanisms to deal with it.
Optometrist Petra Bridgemohan said the future of eye care was dependent upon how it defined models for eye care, but she said there were challenges which varied from rural to urban areas
“How you deliver the treatment is different in Matelot and Guayaguayare. It is hard for those people who live in rural communities to access health care. You might have to reach them with a mobile unit,” said Bridgemohan, who gave Khan a big hug for his timely intervention.
Dr Tasanee Braithwaite, Ophthalmology Clinical Research Fellow, NESTT, said while it was a rigorous task, it would give the health care professionals an opportunity to reach out to the public and to make it a success.
She said many times people were changing lanes recklessly due to limited vision.
Braithwaite also prepared a progress report up to April 2014.
It said: “Over 4,500 randomly-selected people from 58 communities have been visited at home and invited to participate in the National Eye Survey. Over 90 per cent have agreed to participate.
“Over 2,300 people from northwest and north central Trinidad have been examined thus far.
“Several hundred people with potentially sight-threatening eye disease (most frequently glaucoma, diabetes eye disease and cataract or health-threatening medical conditions (most frequently uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes) have been identified, empowered with awareness and understanding of their condition, and referred onwards.”
The NESTT team has taken their vision screeing services to areas including Valsayn, Snake Valley, Blue Basin, Wallerfield to Maloney.