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Vision for All

Posted on June 29, 2016

An Open Letter to National Geographic

In the September 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine, the publication highlighted the global health challenge of blindness in a series of published articles and interactive stories.  The following is a letter to the editor of National Geographic submitted by Dr. Van Charles Lansingh, HelpMeSee’s medical officer for Latin America:

I want to congratulate David Dobbs and National Geographic for this extraordinary coverage about ending blindness, which appeared in the September 2016 issue. It has been widely commented on social media and by leaders in the field including the International Council of Ophthalmology.

As an ophthalmologist working on preventing blindness, Mr. Dobb’s moving account of Namibian eye surgeon Helena Ndume struck a chord with me. Until recently, preventable blindness has not received the attention it warrants on the global health agenda. As Mr. Dobbs wrote, the vast majority of the global population with blindness live in developing countries. Six years ago, the WHO estimated that 285 million people were visually impaired, of whom 39 million were blind. Untreated cataracts account for 51% of the global burden of blindness, and a further 33% of visual impairment.

Despite the good work being done by many cataract specialists like Helena Ndume in developing countries, the waiting list for treatment are getting longer with no end in sight. Because the global population continues to live longer, those awaiting treatment will only increase unless the shortage of trained cataract specialists working in developing countries is addressed. Health care paradigms need to be broken and creative use of technology is urgently needed.

There is a solution to ending cataract blindness – training the tens of thousands of skilled cataract specialists needed. HelpMeSee is focused on rapidly increasing the number of trained cataract specialists and reduce risk to patients by using comprehensive simulation-based training technology and establishing training centers in the developing world. By forging alliances with various NGOs, medical partners, local governments, and academic centers we can meet this pressing need to provide sight-restoring cataract treatment for millions.

Thank you Mr. Dobbs and National Geographic for this story of hope. Everyone deserves to live in a world without preventable blindness.

Best regards,

Dr. Van Charles Lansingh, MD

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HelpMeSee is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in the United States.

The HelpMeSee mission is to eradicate preventable cataract blindness globally. We achieve this through an innovative, scalable simulation-based cataract surgical training program. Our program covers Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS), Phacoemulsification Simulation-based Training Course (PSTC), Suturing Simulation-based Training Course (SSTC), Complications Management Course (CMC), Phacoemulsification to MSICS Differences Course (PMDC), and MSICS to Phacoemulsification Differences Course (MPDC). These offerings empower eye care professionals to refine their skills, master vital procedures, and excel in ophthalmology. We are dedicated to restoring vision for those with severe visual impairment and cataract-induced blindness worldwide.

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