It is estimated that over 20 percent of those blind from cataract in the world live in China, and every year there are 400,000 new cases. One cause of this continued increase is that a large number of township/county hospitals do not have ophthalmology clinics nor adequately trained manpower and equipment.
To address this great need, Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) partnered with the National Health and Family Planning Commission (formerly named Ministry of Health) and the China Disabled Persons’ Federation on the SightFirst China Action (SFCA) project. SFCA was officially launched nationwide in 1997.
Phase I of SFCA ran from 1997 to 2002, supporting 2.2 million cataract surgeries in China and establishing surgical eye units in 104 rural counties that previously had none.
Phase II ran from 2002 until 2007. During this phase, nearly 3 million cataract surgeries were performed, and eye care infrastructure was strengthened by creating secondary eye care units at hospitals in 106 underdeveloped counties throughout the country.
Phase III, which lasted from 2012 through 2016, was mainly aimed at verification of elimination of blinding trachoma in China by 2016. Assessment of 16 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities which were historically known as endemic for trachoma or economically depressed, proved blinding trachoma was no longer a public health threat.
SFCA greatly promoted blindness prevention and treatment within. Millions of people have received sight-saving surgery, and countless more have been spared the devastation of losing their sight due to these efforts.
As the first international volunteer service organization in China, Lions Clubs International is proud that this partnership created one of LCIF’s largest and most successful SightFirst programs.
- During the 15 years of SFCA, the Chinese government expanded its efforts in blindness prevention and treatment. National and provincial eye health systems improved and technical systems/offices were developed.
- Before the start of SFCA, the national cataract surgery (CSR) rate was less than 200 cases per million per year, a worldwide low. In 2007, CSR was nearly 600 cases per million per year. By 2015, CSR was up to 1,500 cases per million per year.
- Between 2006 and 2014, CSC (cataract surgical coverage) improved from 35.7% to 62.8%. CSC indicates the extent to which the problem of cataract blindness has been reduced.
- SFCA helped to launch the National Cataract Surgery Information Report System in 2009. This database has become an important tool in measuring and reporting CSR, as well as collecting data on surgical outcomes.
Currently, Lions leadership and Chinese leadership are in conversations regarding a possible Phase IV of SightFirst China Action.