The President of the Glaucoma Patients Association of Ghana (GPAG), Mr Harrison Abutiate, has appealed to government to exempt glaucoma medications from taxes and include effective glaucoma drugs on the National Standard Drugs list.
This he said would help the country in winning the war against glaucoma, stressing that it was a “thief of sight”.
Mr Abutiate said this at the launch of this year’s World Glaucoma Week in Accra on Tuesday, on the theme, Green = Go get your eyes tested for Glaucoma! Save Your Sight!!!
The President noted that glaucoma was the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world, hence the need to increase awareness as it remained the biggest contribution to its prevention, adding that prevention, through early screening was key to combating the disease.
Mr Abutiate called on the media to continue to create awareness on glaucoma to help eliminate it.
Presenting an update on the glaucoma situation in Ghana Dr Mrs Naa Naamuah Tagoe, a consultant ophthalmologist, said, a recent national blindness survey indicated that, 19 per cent of blindness in the country was due to glaucoma.
This, she noted, translated to about one in five cases of blindness being attributed to the disease, adding, that, about half of patients who presented the disease in rural areas were blind in one eye and one out of three in both eyes at the time of diagnosis.
Dr Tagoe said even though the situation in cities was slightly better it was important for government to play its role in reducing the cost of medications.
“Government should set up a body within the Ministry of Health to champion the glaucoma cause as we all sit on a blindness time bomb!” she added.
The consultant ophthalmologist noted that many people do not get tested for the disease due to fear and ignorance and its silent nature.
She said contrary to myths that testing for the disease was a painful process, its screening was non-invasive as the disease was hereditary.
Reiterating a quote from a popular American personality which said, “The only way to predict if there’s a cloud on your horizon due to glaucoma is to get tested. No matter what the diagnosis, the forecast is for clear vision in the years ahead”. She advised the people to get tested and not take their eyes for granted.
The Deputy Minister of Health Mrs Tina Mensah said consultations on an implementation framework were underway to strengthen eye care at the primary health care level to meet demands of the 21st century, adding that, “Without this we cannot achieve sustainable development goals on health”.
She urged civil society organisations to support the awareness creation efforts of GPAG to help reduce the prevalence of the disease as it has been estimated that by the year 2020 as much as 900,000 Ghanaians would be living with the disease.
BY ALLIA NOSHIE