At a time when the chronic diseases are on the rise globally, Nepal stands among the first countries to implement the measures that can tackle the growing diabetic retinopathy menace.
The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed this in its publication on blindness and visual impairment released in October 2017.
“Among the first countries to make use of the new Tool for Assessment of Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy (TADDS) was Nepal, where the Nepali Ministry of Health had been concerned by the increase in diabetes and diabetic retinopathy and wanted to use TADDS to make sure it was taking the appropriate actions in response,” said WHO in its latest update on blindness and visual impairment.
WHO introduced TADDS in 2015 as a measure to address concerns related to timely diagnosis and treatment access for diabetic retinopathy, globally.
Lauding WHO’s support through this tool, Sailesh Kumar Mishra, National Programme Coordinator of the Apex Body for Eye Health under the Ministry of Health, Nepal said, “At the time Nepal had taken a step forward by listing non-communicable diseases as a priority health concern, but it was lacking the specific health policies, plans and programs to address diabetes and diabetic retinopathy in particular. TADDS has helped move us in the right direction.”
The WHO Country Office gave a direct assistance to the Nepali Ministry of Health in this assessment, informed the WHO release.
“The Office supported the field work, monitored the progresses and provided effective and timely feedback to the WHO Headquarters in Geneva,” said WHO.
The assessment made through TADDS reported insufficient collaboration between the eye care and diabetes management sectors, which made it difficult for the country’s health care providers plan and progress in their related tasks.
With the WHO tool, Nepal could assess current situation in the country, range of coordination across the services, extent of data sharing and the overall awareness the country’s diabetic patients have on the disease control.
A lack of needed awareness among the diabetic patients of the country, on the ways to manage diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, was also observed.
To address the concerns, the tool helped Nepal understand the need for updating its disease management guidelines to reflect best practices.
Following the assessment, WHO and the Government of Nepal held a national policy discussion, wherein, the Nepali Health Ministry and its partners such as patient associations, agreed upon few immediate measures to address gaps in the system.
“Since then, the Government of Nepal has been making good progress. A National Strategy for the Integration of Diabetic Retinopathy Eye Care Services into the Public Health System and several clinical guidelines for managing diabetic retinopathy have been developed in part based on WHO guidance and are about to be approved.”
Finally, the Government of Nepal included diabetic retinopathy in the National Eye Health Policy, which is also nearing completion.
“We now know best where to place our energies, so that people with diabetes get the eye care they need to prevent any unnecessary loss of vision. And we have been able to do this because we made sure we had the buy in of all the stakeholders involved,” says Mishra.
According to WHO data, there are around 422 million adults with diabetes, globally, and loss of vision is one of the major complications caused through diabetes.
Stating that diabetic retinopathy accounts to 2.6% of the causes of blindness in the world, WHO highlights that as one of the challenging diseases for many countries.
To address this major issue, WHO came up with TADDS to help the countries in dealing with diabetic retinopathy.