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Sightsavers research highlights inequalities behind access to eye care

June 2020
Shamima communicates with her sister. Her sister uses hand movements to get her point across. Both women are sitting down outside and wear bold, pink clothing.

Governments and healthcare organisations must look at income and gender as well as disability if they are to effectively support people with visual impairments, according to new Sightsavers research.

The research found that women and those from a lower socio-economic background were often disproportionally affected by issues involved with eye problems. In one case, people with additional, non-visual disabilities were 10 times as likely to be blind or have severe visual impairment than those without.

The study recorded disability and socio-economic status in five surveys of visual impairment across three countries over four years.

Taking place across India, Pakistan and Tanzania, the research found that in all places where disability was recorded, people with additional, non-visual disabilities were more likely to be blind or severely visually impaired.

Emma Jolley, lead author of the report from Sightsavers, said: “These results add extra layers to our understanding of who has visual impairments, which is important if we’re going to be efficient and effective in supporting them.

“More research needs to be done… but if the results are replicated across larger studies, this insight could be crucial in terms of being able to identify and support people.”

Lower income was also associated with higher chances of visual impairment in one study site in India, and in two study sites in India this affected the level of cataract surgical coverage.

The study was published in the Journal of Ophthalmic Epidemiology. Find out more about our research by visiting Sightsavers research centre.

Community health workers gathering data in Bhopal, India.

Find out more

Our paper presents results from five surveys where prevalence of visual impairment and cataract surgery coverage were examined for differences by sex, economic status and disability.

Read the study

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