The world Glaucoma week for 2018 was observed across the globe from March 11-18. It was essentially aimed at creating awareness about the dangers of glaucoma, its prevalence, and the threat to human sight and the need for early detection and proper management to avoid total blindness.
As part of its corporate social responsibility, Optics Plus, a Lagos-based eye centre offered free eye and glaucoma tests to members of the public especially residents of the Festac community.
The Director Administration and Community Outreach, Nnedi Ogaziechi, fielded questions on their experiences, the challenges and the urgency for government’s intervention in the health sector, especially as it relates to visual health.
What was the world Glaucoma Week all about?
It is a chosen week in the year when attention is called to the debilitating effect of glaucoma, popularly refereed to as sight stealer principally because it could be very asymptomatic. It is equally a time when visual health managers interfacing with the public, the private sector, individuals and governments create awareness about the value of people having regular eye tests, especially for such diseases, like glaucoma, that is notorious for not coming with symptoms. Since information is power and early detection key to efficient and effective management of glaucoma, the period (glaucoma week) creates an opportunity for professionals and non-professionals to raise the issue in order to challenge policy makers and sensitise the public of the dangers of not doing the needful to ensure that people do not lose the sight through glaucoma. So generally, the week is devoted to addressing the issue of glaucoma removed from the normal advise or regular checks for other forms of visual diseases.
Given the economic climate and cost-saving measures being adopted by most corporate bodies, how convenient was it for Optics Plus to offer this free test given that we are aware you also organise a seasons free eye test every December?
As a sensitive and responsible corporate citizen and having been in the sector for some time, we understand the challenges of ignorance, access to quality eye care services and affordability to communities. We have always felt that in a week like we just had, we should be able to avail to as many as possible free access to our facilities as a Corporate Social Responsibility activity to assist Nigerians have a status check and counseling where needed. This we considered a modest contribution in support of the global programme aimed at ensuring sight for all.
Beyond this, an encounter one of our doctors had with a first time visitor to our clinic recently triggered off the urge to quickly intervene in our own little way to create more awareness to as many as are probably not aware of the likely implication of ignoring early tests to detect any anomaly with the eyes. The glaucoma week presented a great opportunity to avail more people of the opportunity to check their glaucoma status and counsel patients already suffering the damage it had caused.
Now that the world Glaucoma Week is over for this year, what next?
Honestly, we have reflected over this and I can tell you that for us, it will not be a closed shop. We may now begin to explore opportunities by reaching out to other groups or individuals that share the same vision to expand the frontiers of intervention beyond waiting for annual calls. As long as the challenges are with us, no one can, in all fairness, say that it is uhuru, neither do we have to close our eyes to eye-related health challenges when it is obvious that if nothing is done and urgently too, a good number of our people might lose their sight or suffer some form of visual impairment or the other.
To answer your question directly, we cannot rest on our oars, neither would we give up because of cost implications. As long as the zeal is there, we are very optimistic that the future would be bright and reassuring.
Was there any government involvement or partnership with any NGO or donor agencies?
When the company took the decision to embark on the programme, it was clear to us that given the peculiarities in our clime and the official bottlenecks in decision-making, it would amount to walking the tight ropes in securing government support or partnership. However, there is need to underscore the importance of government’s involvement in programmes of this nature, especially the local government that is closer to the grassroots. A greater number of the rural dwellers do not have enough information and even where they do, they can either not afford quality care centres or have access to them.