Innovative Programs in Nepal, India and Nigeria Receive Funding
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Pediatric Cataract Initiative has announced its inaugural small research grant recipients for treating and preventing vision loss in children.
The Initiative, a partnership of the Bausch + Lomb Early Vision Institute and Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), will provide two research grants of US$50,000 each to:
Lumbini Eye Institute to study the cost and clinical effectiveness of a comprehensive pediatric cataract surgery follow-up system in western Nepal and adjacent northern Indian states. The outcomes are expected to have a wide-ranging effect on follow-up regimens in developing nations worldwide.
Calabar Teaching Hospital to investigate the burden and causes of severe visual impairment and blindness among children in the Cross River State of Nigeria. This is believed to be the first large-scale study of the root causes of childhood blindness in Africa.
Launched in June 2010, the Pediatric Cataract Initiative is the first dedicated global effort aimed at preventing and treating cataract – a clouding of the eye’s natural lens – in children so as to reduce childhood blindness. Causes of pediatric cataract can include intrauterine infections such as pregnancy rubella, metabolic disorders and genetically transmitted syndromes.
“While the knowledge and techniques for diagnosis and treatment of pediatric cataract are well known, there is a lack in the understanding of factors that determine success of interventions and factors that will enhance accessing services,” said Dr. Gullapalli Rao, chairman of the Pediatric Cataract Initiative Global Advisory Council and founder of the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India.
The inaugural small research grant application was open to clinicians and researchers around the world. Members of the Pediatric Cataract Initiative Global Advisory Council, which is composed of eye health experts from around the world, met in December 2010 to review 16 small research grant applications from countries including India, Cameroon, Nigeria, Nepal, Guatemala, Kenya, the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
“In children, despite the best cataract surgery, long term and more frequent follow up is required because of changing refractive error due to their constantly growing eyes and the special concern of amblyopia, which is exclusive to children,” notes Dr. Salma K.C. Rai, principal investigator, academic director and ophthalmic assistant training in-charge and consultant pediatric ophthalmologist at Lumbini Eye Institute, Nepal.
“It is very important for the pediatric ophthalmologist and the team to repeatedly stress to parents the importance of follow up visits, at least in the initial few years following pediatric cataract surgery. The seed needs to be sown at the right time, and any delay will result in poor results,” said Dr. Rai.
“Receiving the grant will engage people in our region to take more action towards eliminating childhood blindness,” said Dr. Roseline Duke of the Calabar Teaching Hospital in Nigeria. “At the end of our research, I hope to have restored good vision to children who are affected by cataract, and integrated those who have lost their vision into their schools and communities.”
An estimated 1.4 million children are blind worldwide, 1 million of whom live in Asia and 300,000 in Africa. The prevalence of pediatric cataract in developing countries can be 10 times more common than in developed nations.
Childhood blindness affects not only children, but their families and communities for life. One study places the global economic loss over 10 years of childhood cataract at between US$1 billion to US$6 billion.
The Initiative also intends to announce a major prevention and treatment grant for a Chinese institution in the coming months.
“Lions have long been dedicated to saving and restoring sight, so this partnership is a natural for us. Dedicated research that will help prevent blindness is a new area of great interest for our Foundation, and one that will pay great dividends for years to come,” said Wing Kun Tam, a member of the Global Advisory Council and vice president, Lions Clubs International.
The Pediatric Cataract Initiative (www.PediatricCataract.org) utilizes the resources of both Bausch + Lomb’s Early Vision Institute and LCIF to identify, fund and promote innovative methods of overcoming this challenge for the long-term benefit of children, their families and their communities