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Israel makes dramatic advance in blindness prevention
Date:7/10/2013

According to the World Health Organization, 80% of blindness is preventable or treatable but it remains a severe health concern across the globe, even in industrialized countries.

Now hope is on the horizon especially if countries are willing to emulate Israel's approach to eye health, says Prof. Michael Belkin of the Goldschleger Eye Research Institute at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center in a new study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. In the last decade, rates of preventable blindness in Israel have been cut by more than half from 33.8 cases of blindness per 100,000 residents in 1999 to 14.8 in 2010. This improvement, found across all four main causes of avoidable blindness age-related deterioration, glaucoma, diabetes, and cataract is unmatched anywhere else in the world, he says.

The secret is not only the innovative methods of treatment that were added to the Israeli medical system, but their universal availability and accessibility, as well as good patient compliance with treatment regimens, including the correct use of prescribed medications.

Israel also offers community-based programs, such as dedicated diabetes clinics, which promote early prevention and timely treatment for diabetes-related complications that can lead to blindness. Prof. Belkin notes that such programs save public and private health care money in the long term.

Advancing eye care

To evaluate the effectiveness of eye health care in Israel, Prof. Belkin and his fellow researchers Alon Skaat, Angela Chetrit and Ofra Kalter-Leibovici from TAU and Sheba, conducted a statistical study measuring rates of blindness in the Israeli population over twelve years. They discovered that Israel has emerged as a world leader in preventing avoidable blindness, reducing rates by over 56%. The rates of untreatable genetic causes of blindness remained steady over the same period.
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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