Ethnic Minority Eye Health Project
The Royal National Institute for the Blind (Scotland) presented an interim report on a project of great interest to Kitaba, Islamic Texts for the Blind, on 5th December 2009. The project aims to improve understanding of the problems facing minority communities in accessing eye care services. This project is important as certain eye diseases are of higher prevalence among particular minority communities and if caught early, significant eye loss can often be prevented in those communities. For this reason, Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, described it as ‘probably one of the most important initiatives in eye care right now’.
The Cabinet Secretary was the keynote speaker at the launch of the interim report. She made a touching tribute to our late chairman, Imran Sabir describing him as a ‘courageous’ person who ‘was dedicated to helping others.’ His passing and the death of another important supporter of the project, Mr Bashir Ahmed, MSP, was marked with a minute silence at the beginning of the event.
She mentioned that since the introduction by the Scottish Government of free eye examinations, there has been a significant increase in the uptake of examinations and this has made Scotland in the words of the minister ‘a world leader in eye care provision’. Linked to this initiative, a series of specific pilot projects were established focusing on sections of the community who were either more prone to certain causes of sight loss, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataract or muscular degeneration, or were not accessing services at the level expected.
Gozie (Joe) Adigwe, the project development officer, described how a mapping tool was established to investigate eye sight loss across the ethnic minority communities in the Greater Glasgow area. Her research identified that sight loss due to cataract was particularly high among people from the Indian Subcontinent whereas loss due to diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma were high among those of Black African origin. It is likely that this research reflects trends across the UK.
Her research was then used to inform a campaign of awareness raising in ethnic minority communities across the greater Glasgow area. This was delivered in partnership with diabetes organisations and ethnic minority groups. Existing language support services and policies were widely promoted to service providers not currently using these for the benefit of those for whom English is an additional language. The interim report quoted a group of ladies from the Pakistani community who had attended one of the events saying ‘these talks are very important as not many of us know much about risk factors and services we should be using. I will pay better attention to my eyes since this talk. Please come back to talk to more ladies.’
The event finished with a short talk by a service user who described how the RNIB had ‘empowered’ him and now he is acting as volunteer. Shaukat Sultan said, ‘when you lose something you need support, you don’t need money’. We, like Shaukat, hope that the RNIB and its project partners continue to provide that targeted and culturally sensitive support. Kitaba hope that we can contribute to the project in the future. Imran Sabir had been on the advisory group and had made a beautiful passionate speech at its launch and we hope that after his death his influence will continue through those he affected.
Further information on the project can be found at the RNIB (Scotland) or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.