Improving child health and visual rehabilitation

While the motivation for our laboratory’s work is primarily scientific, we are in the fortunate position of also being able to contribute towards significant humanitarian causes, especially the problem of childhood blindness. A basic challenge in this context lies in identifying children whose blindness can be treated. To meet this challenge, and as part of a participant identification initiative for Project Prakash, we have organized eye-care camps in the medically underserved parts of India, and have provided eye-health screening to over 700 blind (or nearly so) children. Many of the children, even those who do not fit the specific profile required for Project Prakash, have been treated, and have had their vision improved. This outreach effort continues, and we expect to be able to help at least 500 children each year. We are following through on surgical treatment by setting up a facility for visual rehabilitation in New Delhi. Currently, the field of neuroscience has little experimental data about how well the brain can recover visual function following extended blindness. By determining which skills the children are impaired at, Project Prakash has begun providing crucial information for creating effective rehabilitation schemes. Only by having such knowledge can childhood blindness treatment programs be fully effective. To improve awareness regarding preventable/treatable childhood blindness, and the need for visual rehabilitation, we have launched a newsletter targeted towards ophthalmologists. To also reach the public at large, we have published a series of essays in the major newspaper of India. We hope that the spotlight our research brings to bear upon the problem of treatable childhood blindness will strengthen outreach, treatment and rehabilitation programs not just in India but globally.

Rajasekharan, S. and Sinha, P. (Editors) Netranjali – a newsletter on visual rehabilitation. Published by Shroff Charity Eye Hospital, New Delhi.

Sinha, P. (2004). The Brain Quest. (A series of seven articles on brain function). Published in The Hindustan Times – a national newspaper in India.