With the support of Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) and funding from The Fred Hollows Foundation, the first-ever RAAB was conducted in 2017 in Papua New Guinea (PNG), an ecologically and culturally rich country with a population of over 7.6 million people.
Collecting data in PNG is a challenge, let alone collecting it rapidly, owing to rugged terrain, poor transport infrastructure, and recurrent law and order problems.
Nevertheless, with the support of the National Prevention of Blindness (NPBL) Committee, the survey went ahead. Some 4,818 adults aged 50+ years from 100 randomly selected communities had their vision examined as part of the survey. In the National Capital District (NCD), diabetes and DR was also assessed.
The data revealed significant eye health challenges.
Across all regions in PNG, the rate of blindness was found to be 5.6 percent, up from 3.9 percent in 2005. This equates to over 40,746 people who are blind in both eyes, and almost 67,987 who are blind in one eye. This is significantly higher than in neighbouring Pacific Islands, where the prevalence of blindness ranges between 0.5 percent and 4.2 percent. The main cause in PNG is untreated cataract, accounting for 89 percent of all blindness. Some 61 percent of all blindness was found to be experienced by women. Approximately two-thirds of all participants who needed spectacles were found to not have them. The RAAB also revealed that in the NCD alone, 7.8 percent of all adults aged 50 plus years had diabetes. Of these, almost half had some form of diabetic retinopathy (DR) or maculopathy.