In Guyana, around 14,000 people are visually impaired and almost 3,000 people are blind. Strengthening Diabetic Retinopathy eye care services is a major area of focus with diabetes affecting an estimated 15.1% of the country’s total population.

In Guyana, there is a lack of eye care capacity with only 16 ophthalmologists (10 doing surgery) serving nearly 800,000 people.

We have been active in the country since 2006, when we first spearheaded a project to improve the quality of the cataract services at our partner Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) - the country’s national referral hospital for eye care services.

We’re currently working alongside the same partner to expand Diabetic Retinopathy capacity through equipment, screening programs and training.

In 2020...

Tackling Diabetic Retinopathy

With 15.1% of the population affected, Guyana has the highest prevalence of diabetes in South America and is expected to rise to 17.9% by 2030. (WHO STEPpwise approach to surveillance (STEPS) 2016 Study)

The Guyana Eye Care Strategic Framework estimates that 18,630 people suffer from Diabetic Retinopathy which threatens the sight of 4,658 of those patients. (Strategic Framework for Vision 2020: The Right to Sight – Caribbean Region, PAHO/WHO, Barbados, 2010)

In 2015, Orbis International began working with the Government of Guyana on the Guyana Diabetes Care Project (GCDP) which launched by the Guyana Ministry of Public Health, with support from the World Diabetes Project. In 2016, Orbis collaborated with this National Diabetes Program (GDCP) to launch the Guyana Diabetic Retinopathy Program - a Diabetic Retinopathyscreening and treatment program within the country’s public health system, working alongside our partner GPHC.

Diabetes can lead to eye disease diabetic retinopathy

Before the start of the project in 2015, there was no laser treatment capacity, no formal screening program for Diabetic Retinopathy and limited equipment and trained healthcare professionals in the public system.

Among primary health care staff and the general population, we also found that awareness of diabetes management was also low.

Success in Guyana

Diabetic Retinopathy Screening: After successfully integrating the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening and Treatment Center in Guyana’s largest tertiary hospital GPHC, in 2019 we established a peripheral screening center in a neighbouring region, Enmore, with access to DR equipment, supplies and training delivered by our teams. As a result of Orbis’s efforts to scale up local capacity, we are slowly building a Diabetic Retinopathy referral system, working with the GPHC and Enmore polyclinic, reducing the risk of complications and blindness.

In 2019 only, GPHC screened 4,923 patients and treated 1,361 with laser therapy.

Training: In 2019 146 trainings for eye care professionals were delivered in our partner centers, to identify, screen, grade, diagnose, counsel and treat Diabetic Retinopathy. A multidisciplinary effort, where our integrated understanding of eye care has allowed us to deliver trainings to local eye doctors, nurses, biomedical engineers, anaesthesiologists and optometrists both through our biannual Caribbean Flying Eye Hospital projects, in country initiatives and telehealth training platform.

Guyana ophthalmologist Dr. Jenelle Sarju during an Orbis training project

Public Health Campaigns: Public campaigns promoting eye health awareness to celebrate World Sight Day and Diabetes World Day resulted in educating at risk populations through both targeted and national level public awareness campaigns on diabetes prevention, care and complications of Diabetic Retinopathy.

What We’re Doing Next

Following the success of screening services, we’re working on proposals to establish a third Diabetic Retinopathy screening center in 2020. Our wonderful long-term partner GPHC continues to be very proactive in preventing and managing Diabetic Retinopathy and enhancing the services to offer to those who need it the most.

Our Partners

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