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Fewer blind in India than a decade ago, says National Blindness Survey

The prevalence of blindness in the country has declined by at least 30%, shows the National Blindness Visually Impaired Survey (2019) commissioned by the Union ministry of health and family welfare.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi conducted the survey on behalf of the health ministry to know the exact number of people who suffer from blindness and causes that lead to the condition.

The previous survey was done in 2006-07, and showed blindness prevalence of about 1% in country’s population.

The survey was conducted in 24 states and Union Territories and about 1.11 lakh people were tested.

Cataract still remains the number one cause of blindness in the country.

“Even though the definition of blindness was changed recently and we made use of the new definition to calculate the numbers, there is still a significant improvement in the numbers. If you look at the 50 plus population, 3.6% people were found to be blind during the earlier survey and now the number has come down to 1.99%,” said Dr Parveen Vashist, professor, RP Centre, AIIMS.

Dr Vashist is the principal investigator in the survey.

A Rapid Assessment Avoidable of Blindness (RAAB-6) methodology was used to conduct a survey. RAAB-6 is an accepted modality that is practised globally to detect the prevalence of blindness in people who are above 50.

The WHO defines blindness as visual sharpness of less than 3/60, or a corresponding visual field loss to less than 10 degrees in the better eye, even with the best possible spectacle correction.

“Earlier, if a person was not able to count fingers from a distance of 6, he metres would be considered blind but according to the new WHO definition the distance has been changed to 3 metres. However, we have extrapolated the data and realised that the condition is actually improving in India,” Dr Vashist said.

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