Glaucoma is a major cause of blindness worldwide and an increasingly significant global health problem. Glaucoma prevention and management efforts have been challenging due to inherent difficulty in developing a simple and cost-effective screening plan, limited access to health care and educational resources, poverty, and inadequate knowledge of the disease, particularly in developing countries. Starting in 2004 the Tilganga Eye Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal has provided targeted glaucoma screening, treatment, and education through a combination of clinical outreach programs and educational activities for patients.
A simple, age-based glaucoma screening algorithm was incorporated into three one-day cataract screening clinics. Using this algorithm, patients who were newly diagnosed with glaucoma were referred to TEC, where medication and surgery were provided free of charge through private donor funding. In addition, we describe two ongoing educational programs for increasing glaucoma awareness: an annual Glaucoma Awareness Week (which includes free screening, treatment, and counseling), and a repeating lecture series which generates new counselors.
From 2004 to 2007 screening at the annual Glaucoma Awareness Week resulted in the diagnosis of 120 individuals with glaucoma, or 7.6% of total registrants. Attendance increased annually with a trend toward an increasing number of returning patients but a decreasing percentage of newly diagnosed patients, though the absolute numbers have remained relatively stable (range 21 to 38). Data from the three one-day screening clinics in 2006 show that approximately 2 to 4% of patients 50 years of age or older per clinic were newly diagnosed with POAG.
This multi-faceted approach appears to successfully identify individuals with glaucoma and provide treatment to those who would otherwise not be able to afford it. While more data is needed to validate this model, specifically regarding the effectiveness of educational activities, long-term visual outcomes, and medication compliance, it may serve as a useful framework for other developing countries with similarly limited resources.