India changes 'Blindness' definition

India changes 'Blindness' definition

India changes 'Blindness' definition

India has changed its four-decade old definition of blindness, tuning it with the globally accepted definition of the blindness, as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
 
Going by the earlier definition, adopted in 1976, if a person is unable to count its fingers at a distance of six metres, he/she would have been considered a blind. In the new definition, the distance has been cut down to three metres.
 
This would not only reduce the number of blind people in India, but would also aid the medical researchers calculate the national burden of blindness in respect to other countries.
 
Currently Indian data can't be compared with global estimates as other countries follow the WHO criteria.
 
“Uniformity of blindness criteria is a pre-requisite for a reliable estimates of global burden of blindness,” said Promila Gupta, deputy director general of the National Programme for the Control of Blindness.
 
While the proposal was in the works for the last few months, the Union Health Ministry on issued the official notification earlier this week, sources said.
 
Changing the criteria is also driven by India's goal to reduce blindness prevalence in the country to 0.3% of the total population by 2020 in line with the WHO's Vision-2020 goals.
 
“It will be extremely difficult to achieve the WHO goal using the NPCB current definition since we will be addressing an extra 4 million individuals, blind due to refractive errors. By adopting the blindness criteria of WHO, India can achieve the goal,” said Praveen Vashist, who looks after community opthalmology at the Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.
 
The Health Ministry also plans to change the nomenclature of NPCB to the National Programme for Control of Visual Impairment and Blindness so that the government can focus on all types of blindness rather than restricting itself only on blindness.
 
The name-changing plan has been floated ahead of the launching of major government programme to make cataract free in the next five years. “With the change in nomenclature, the number of beneficiaries will now increase to 40 million,” Vashist said.
 
“The probable reason for keeping 6 metres as the cut off distance for defining blindness in India was to include economic blindness cases which referred to a level of blindness which prevents an individual to earn his or her wages. In contrast, the WHO definition adopts a criteria, which hampers the routine social interaction of a person,” Gupta said.

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