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UC Davis and Orbis partner in telemedicine initiative to treat, prevent blindness

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) Today, UC Davis Health System and Orbis International, a leading global non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to eliminate avoidable blindness, signed an agreement of cooperation that will expand the use of telemedicine technology to help treat and prevent blindness in the developing world.

The new alliance, which features the expertise of the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology and the UC Davis Eye Center, paves the way for developing new research, education and telehealth collaborations to advance vision science and eye care on a global scale.

The World Health Organization estimates that 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide. This includes 39 million individuals who are blind and 246 million who have low vision. About 90 percent of the world's visually impaired live in developing countries, and 80 percent of all cases of visual impairment can be avoided or cured. These include refractive errors, cataracts and glaucoma, the leading causes of visual impairment worldwide.

Through the agreement, UC Davis specialists in telemedicine, information technology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology and nursing will work with Orbis on initiatives such as staff development, fellowships and programs on the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital a fully equipped mobile teaching hospital on board a DC-10 jet. Trainees will have opportunities for hands-on training in the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology simulation center and Orbis's telehealth program for real-time surgical demonstrations.

"Orbis is honored to join in this agreement with the UC Davis Eye Center," said Jenny Hourihan, president and chief executive officer of Orbis. "UC Davis is such an impressive partner and dedicated in helping to make quality eye health accessible while advancing programs and technology used in eye health worldwide. We are excited to collaborate and share tools and resources to expand the reach and influence that telehealth has in preventing and treating avoidable blindness."

The project includes establishing telehealth links that will transmit live broadcasts of eye surgeries at UC Davis to virtual classrooms in remote regions in the developing world with the opportunity for trainees thousands of miles away to ask questions of surgeons in real time. It also will explore live e-consultations with partners around the world and further Orbis's ongoing efforts to establish an open-source ophthalmic electronic medical record system, which will help develop a more robust e-health infrastructure, provide access to increased decision-making support and offer researchers a wealth of global data.

"Advances in telecommunications technologies and broadband capacity in developing countries has created new opportunities to improve training for physicians, nurses and other members of the health-care team and expanded access to health-care services among the world's most vulnerable populations," said Thomas Nesbitt, associate vice chancellor for strategic technologies and alliances at UC Davis. "By partnering with Orbis, a recognized pioneer in establishing sustainable, quality eye health care worldwide, we are leveraging UC Davis' expertise in telehealth and distance learning to have a profound impact on global health."

Orbis works to bring quality eye care to communities by building capacity with local partners to develop infrastructure, trained staff and, ultimately, sustainable eye care services. Since 1982, Orbis has carried out programs in 92 countries, enhanced the skills of more than 325,000 eye care professionals, and provided medical and optical treatments to more than 23.3 million adults and children. Since 2006, nearly 20 UC Davis faculty and staff have participated in 14 medical missions, traveling to China, Vietnam, Peru, Indonesia, India, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Zambia and Panama.


Contact: Carole Gan
University of California - Davis Health System

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