Health Scan: Eye care pays off

Israel has emerged as a world leader in preventing avoidable blindness, reducing rates by over 56%.

By
August 18, 2013 05:42
2 minute read.
Natalie Marx: Alternatively Speaking

Woman's eyes 370. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

Eighty percent of blindness world-wide is either preventable or treatable, according to the World Health Organization, but it remains a severe health concern across the globe, even in industrialized countries. Prof. Michael Belkin of the Goldschleger Eye Research Institute at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer say that other countries can learn from Israel’s approach to eye health.

Writing in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, Belkin said that in the past decade, rates of preventable blindness here 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 macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, diabetes and cataract – is unmatched anywhere else in the world, he reported. The secret is not only the innovative methods of treatment that were added to the basket of health services, but also good patient compliance with treatment regimens, including the correct use of prescribed medications. The health fund community clinics also offer programs, such as dedicated diabetes clinics, which promote early prevention and timely treatment for diabetes-related complications that can lead to blindness. Belkin noted that such programs save public and private health care money in the long term.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


To evaluate the effectiveness of eye health care in Israel, Belkin and colleagues from TAU and Sheba conducted a statistical study measuring rates of blindness in individuals from 12 years through adulthood.

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. For example, AMD – one of the leading causes of blindness in the industrialized world – is treated with a drug therapy originally approved for colon cancer tumors. By diluting the drug to create smaller doses for the eye (an idea that originated in the US), it is possible to provide inexpensive therapy to thousands of patients.

From the public policy standpoint, Belkin wrote that the decline in blindness due to cataracts is due to a change in health care policy rather than any technical advance. Since the 1990s, patients have been able to choose their doctors privately for cataract surgery. This practically eliminated wait times for surgery and prevented the condition from growing worse over the long term.

Belkin believes that any country can adopt Israel’s strategies for reducing blindness. Although the initial costs can be daunting – such as the price of top-notch medications and setting up clinics – it’s “a good investment.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Lab
August 31, 2014
Weizmann scientists bring nature back to artificially selected lab mice

By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH