Low uptake of eye services in rural India: a challenge for programs of blindness prevention

Arch Ophthalmol. 1999 Oct;117(10):1393-9. doi: 10.1001/archopht.117.10.1393.


Objectives: To investigate service uptake in a rural Indian population served by outreach eye camps and to identify barriers to uptake.

Participants and methods: A routine eye camp was conducted within 5 km of each of 48 randomly selected villages of typically Hindu, backward-caste communities. Subsequently, participatory rural appraisal-community mapping, focus groups, matrix ranking, and semistructured interviews-was undertaken to explore community views of eye problems. An eye examination was conducted on persons with eye problems who did not attend the eye camp. Predictors of attendance were identified by multilevel regression analysis.

Results: Of 749 adults with an eye problem, 51 (6.8%) attended the eye camp. Independent predictors of attendance were being male (odds ratio = 2.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-4.5) and living within 3 km of the camp (odds ratio = 4.5; 95% confidence interval, 1.7-12.5). Of the 552 persons who did not attend the eye camps and had an eye examination, 242 (43.8%) had low vision (visual acuity <6/18 to > or =3/60 in presenting better eye) and 38 (6.9%) were blind in both eyes. Cataract surgery was recommended for 197 (35.8%) of the persons who did not attend the eye camps. Of 109 persons with a previous cataract operation, 42 (38.5%) had low vision and 11 (10.1%) were blind. Fear (principally of eye damage), cost (direct and indirect), family responsibilities, ageism, fatalism, and an attitude of being able to cope (with low or no vision) were the principal barriers to attending the eye camps.

Conclusions: A high proportion of people who could have benefited from eye treatment were not using available services. Poor visual outcomes were observed in surgically treated persons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Blindness / epidemiology
  • Blindness / prevention & control*
  • Eye Diseases / epidemiology
  • Eye Diseases / surgery*
  • Eyeglasses
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ophthalmologic Surgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Socioeconomic Factors