Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Address on World Glaucoma Day

Address by Hon. Julius Timothy, Minister for Health, on World Glaucoma Day
March 12, 2010

Fellow Dominicans World Glaucoma Day was established two (2) years ago to increase public awareness about glaucoma. This year the World Glaucoma Body has recommended that a week March 7-13, 2010 should be used for various activities. In the Caribbean region it has been proposed that a simultaneous “walk for sight” should be held on Saturday March 13, 2010 in each island. The participants should wear T-shirts with the flag of their island printed on it. The walk is to be videotaped. The videotaped marches from all the islands will be combined into a giant Caribbean Glaucoma March video to broadcast around the world.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by progressive optic nerve damage and associated peripheral visual field loss and blindness.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Dominica and one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. Glaucoma cannot be cured but it can be controlled. It is a chronic disease included in our Strategic Plan for Health in Dominica. In the Caribbean region including Dominica it is one of the eye diseases listed in our Vision 2020 “the right to sight” WHO strategy, to eliminate preventable causes of blindness by the year 2020.

In Dominica it is estimated that there are over 1600 people over the age of fifty (50) with glaucoma. About fifty percent (50%) of them do not know that they have glaucoma and about ten percent - (10%) are legally blind from glaucoma.

Glaucoma is most prevalent among people of African origin and its onset is at a younger age thirty to forty years (30-40) among blacks. The risk increases with age and it tends to run in families. Most of the patients with glaucoma are over sixty (60) years old but babies can be born with glaucoma. In Dominica the most common cause of congenital glaucoma was Rubella; however, due to our excellent immunization coverage, Congenital Rubella is no longer seen in Dominica. In Dominica the most common cause of secondary glaucoma is trauma. Therefore patients who have serious eye trauma should continue to have annual eye examinations so that glaucoma can be detected early to prevent blindness.

Last year about four (4) employed men had to be medically boarded off and placed on invalidity benefits from Social Security because of irreversible blindness from glaucoma. There are socioeconomic consequences for the individual, their families and the country when they become blind.
Your government has put in place measures to ensure that patients can access affordable treatment for glaucoma. Patients can access eyecare in each of the seven health district. Some of the glaucoma eyedrops are compounded at the Central Medical Stores to ensure that it is readily available at no cost to the patients in each of their health districts. The newer more effective glaucoma eyedrops can be purchased at the Central Medical Stores at cost price which is about thirty to fifty percent (30-50%) of the cost in the private pharmacies. Recommendations have been made to include these eyedrops on the Government Drug Formulary so that patients can obtain those free of charge; however this will cost the government an additional $250,000.00 per year.

Surgical intervention is free for patients over sixty (60) years old. Public education is an intervention to ensure that people at risk can learn about the disease so that they can have their eyes examined regularly to detect this mostly asymptomatic ‘sneak thief of sight’ called glaucoma. Also it is important to reinforce to the patients already diagnosed with glaucoma that they should be compliant with their treatment, keep their follow-up appointments and advise their relatives to examine their eyes for glaucoma.

The following activities have been planned to mark World Glaucoma Week to educate the public:

Tuesday March 9, 2010:

  • 9-10.30am radio talk show on DBS by Ophthalmologist and Mrs. Eudora Shaw wife of ex-president Mr. Shaw. She is a glaucoma patient who has agreed to share her experience with the disease for over 30 years.

Wednesday March 10, 2010:

  • 7:30-9.00a.m: Radio talk show on Q95fm by Ophthalmologist and Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murphy.
  • 8.30 p.m.: Marpin TV with host Mr. Atherton Martin.
  • Participants as follows:
    • Ophthalmologist, Mr. Murphy and Mrs. Boston glaucoma patients as panellists.
  • Floor audience who will be contributing:
    • Ms.Cogdrina Stedman a teenager with glaucoma
    • Mrs. Nathalie Murphy from Dominica Association of Disabled People (DADP). The focus will be the economic rehabilitation of blind persons.
    • Ms. Lisa Watty, a trained Rehabilitation Officer for the Blind, will speak on the rehabilitation of blind persons in the home and community.
    • Mr. Errol Thomas, Chief Pharmacist, will focus on drug treatment of glaucoma.
    • Mr. Augustus Ettienne will provide information on the economic cost to social security when persons are medically boarded off because of disabilities like blindness.
    • Nurse Nanda Mathew, Ophthalmic Technician, will advise on visual field testing.

Thursday 11, 2010:

  • 8-9:00a.m.: Kairi FM talk show by Dr. Debra Williams, Optometrist in the private sector.

Friday March 12, 2010:

  • 7-8:00p.m.: SAT Telecom talk show by Ophthalmologist.

We would like to thank the following sponsors: Dominica Social Security for paying for fifty (50) T shirts and two advertisement slots during the Marpin TV program. Optical Services for meeting the costing of two advertisement slots.
and Josephine Gabriel & Co Ltd for supplying bottled water for the walk.

The Dominica Rotary Club, The Dominica Lions Club and the Dominica Association of Persons with Disabilities are invited to participate along with the general public and patients.

Ophthalmic Technician, Ms. Nanda Mathew is the one coordinating the details of the World Glaucoma Week. Her contact telephone number is 225 4798.

Your kind support and participation in this worthwhile endeavour by the Ministry of Health is appreciated.

I thank you and may God bless you.