Number of blind to come down by 4m as India set to change blindness definition | india news | Hindustan Times
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Number of blind to come down by 4m as India set to change blindness definition

India projects a higher number of blind people at international forums because of its definition. India currently has around 12 million blind people against 39 million globally -- which makes India home to one-third of the world’s blind population.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2017 00:36 IST
HT Correspondent
India currently has around 12 million blind people against 39 million globally.
India currently has around 12 million blind people against 39 million globally.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The government is set to change a four-decade-old definition of blindness to bring it in line with the WHO criteria and ensure the Indian data on blindness meets the global estimates. The change in definition will bring down the number of blind persons by 4 million in India.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines blindness as visual sharpness of less than 3/60, or a corresponding visual field loss to less than 10 degrees in the better eye, even with the best possible spectacle correction.

The National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) in India, on the other hand, defines blindness as vision of 6/60 or less and a visual field loss of 20 degrees or less in the better eye, after spectacle correction.

What it means
  • A person unable to count fingers from a distance of six metres is categorised as “blind” in India, against the WHO’s stipulation of three metres
  • This change in definition will bring down the number of blind persons by 4 million in India
  • Under Vision 2020, India has to reduce the prevalence of blindness to 0.3% of the total population

This means a person unable to count fingers from a distance of six metres is categorised as “blind” in India, against the WHO’s stipulation of three metres.

“With the NPCB definition, we will be addressing an extra 4 million individuals, blind due to refractive errors. By adopting the blindness criteria of the WHO, India can achieve the Vision 2020 goal,” said Dr Praveen Vashist, in-charge of community ophthalmology at Dr RP Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at AIIMS.

Under Vision 2020, India has to reduce the prevalence of blindness to 0.3% of the total population.

India projects a higher number of blind people at international forums because of its definition. India currently has around 12 million blind people against 39 million globally -- which makes India home to one-third of the world’s blind population.

“We will bring the definition of blindness at par with the WHO’s criteria. Because of the current definition, we project a higher figure of blind people from India at any international forum. Thus India gets presented in a poor light compared to other countries,” said NPCB deputy director general Promila Gupta.

Also, she said, the data “we generate under the programme cannot be compared with the global estimates as other countries are following the WHO criteria”.

Uniformity in the definition across various regions of the world is a pre-requisite for facilitating collection of population-based data on prevalence of blindness and estimating its global burden, Gupta said.

The health ministry is also planning to change the nomenclature of NPCB to the National Programme for Control of Visual Impairment and Blindness.

“The idea is to further strengthen the programme by focusing not only on the blind persons but also those with some kind of visual impairment,” Gupta added.

(With agency inputs)