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LCIF’s more than 30-year partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) provides several initiatives in the area of blindness prevention. LCIF and the WHO have a cooperative agreement that established a framework for joint action in the areas of blindness prevention, visual impairment, and the prevention and control of diabetes, with emphasis on diabetic eye disease. Under this agreement, the WHO is responsible for activity implementation and technical oversight, while LCIF is responsible for providing funding, publicity, and local Lions involvement.

Prevention and Control of Diabetes and Vision Loss 

There are an estimated 457 million people with diabetes worldwide, making diabetes among the world’s growing threats to public health. It is estimated by the WHO that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030. Diabetic retinopathy, a result of long-lasting diabetes, is among the top five leading causes of visual impairment and the fourth leading cause of blindness globally. Cooperation between those responsible for managing diabetes and those concerned with diabetic retinopathy is crucial for the proper management of diabetes and prevention of irreversible blindness.

The SightFirst Advisory Committee (SAC) approved a US$400,000 grant in April 2012 to develop an assessment tool for diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. The Tool for the Assessment of Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy (TADDS) is used to conduct a baseline assessment of access to diabetes and diabetic retinopathy care, to estimate the level of cooperation between these two branches of health care, and to assess the financial risk for patients. This 46 question tool makes it possible to conduct a situational analysis, define service provision levels, and to identify the priority gaps to be addressed in ensuring universal access to diabetes care and to prevention and treatment services of diabetic retinopathy. 

TADDS Actions have taken place in more than 30 countries since its development, and they continue to provide needed information on how to improve access to care for people with diabetes and with vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy.

Elimination of Avoidable Childhood Blindness

Childhood blindness remains a significant problem globally, especially in developing countries. When eye diseases and conditions that occur in early childhood are left untreated, they can result in visual impairment or blindness. The major causes vary and are largely determined by socioeconomic status and access to primary health care and eye care services.

Since 2001, LCIF and the WHO have partnered on the Lions-WHO Project for the Elimination of Childhood Blindness. Through this project, LCIF has given nearly US$7 million in grants to establish needs-based pediatric eye care centers throughout the six WHO regions. To-date, 46 centers have been established in 30 countries.