In 2008, the Hospital Group completed the first major Epidemiology Study into Blindness in the occupied Palestinian territory....
To view the published study, please click here.
The World Health Organisation’s initiative, ‘Vision 2020, The Right to Sight’, is aiming to eliminate all avoidable blindness in the world by the year 2020. Though ambitious, there is already evidence that since its inception in 1999, world blindness has begun to decline, and the International Association for the Prevention of Blindness (IAFB) has set up regional groups to act as think tanks and to help implement localised strategies.
However, until recently, there has been no national study which meets the World Health Organisation’s benchmark in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). There were no comprehensive, baseline data on blindness and visual impairment for eye service planning or evaluation in OPT.
In 2008, thanks to kind generosity of The Linbury Trust, the St. John Eye Hospital Group successfully completed the first epidemiology study of this kind to be done in the Middle East. At least eight other countries in the region are hoping to follow our example.
Two teams covered the West Bank and one operated in Gaza. Despite the many challenges incurred conducting research in a difficult environment, the field work was completed in seven weeks, during which time we examined the required 3800 people. The municipal authorities provided maps and guides. Cramped housing in Gazan refugee camps at least meant distances between homes were shorter there. Despite very hot and often humid conditions, team members took pride in the work. Much to our advantage, the Palestinian people were warm in welcoming us into their homes.
Having just completed this study, the world now has some important results available. We can conclude that blindness remains ten times higher in Palestine than in the UK, and that 3% of people over 50 are afflicted. The amount of blind people in Gaza is almost twice that of the West Bank. Avoidable blindness in Palestine accounts for eighty percent of all blindness. Just over half of blind people could probably have their sight restored with routine cataract surgery.
We found that one in every six blind people found difficulty in paying deterred them from having surgery (even transport can be too expensive). One-in-six blind people in the West Bank were not even aware that an operation might successfully improve their sight.
The St. John Eye Hospital was confirmed as the largest health service to provide cataract surgery, performing half of all cataract operations in the West Bank and a quarter of all surgery in Gaza. Corneal blindness and diabetic retinopathy were the next most common causes of blindness, both of which are treatable conditions.
The next step will be to find out what this all means for the Hospital and the OPT. What we can say is that the St. John Eye of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group, with its aim of low cost, high quality care, is providing a very much needed service in Palestine.
We now need to come together with other health service providers in the region and focus on how we can reduce the amount of blindness, particularly in Gaza. Other needs such as health education and a look at all aspects of diabetic eye disease management will have to be considered.
However, if there is something that we were able to show with this research, it was that since its founding 128 years ago, The St. John Eye Hospital has remained determined to be at the forefront of tackling the big questions.
Behçet's Disease: the St John Eye Hospital Group's On-going Research Project
Behçet’s Disease is a chronic condition in which the body's immune system, which normally protects the body against infections, becomes over-active. It causes inflammation of different parts of the body, which may flare up without warning and can occur wherever there is a blood supply. Small blood vessels are particularly affected, and inflammation can appear in patches in areas where there are clusters of small blood vessels. Where this occurs in the body dictates the symptoms a person experiences.
Behçet’s Disease generally begins when a person is in their 20s or 30s. It is rare in the UK and more common in Mediterranean countries, Turkey, the Middle East, Japan and South-East Asia.
The condition can result in skin lesions and also affects the joints, all types of vessels, lungs, central nervous system and digestive tract. Behçet’s Disease is characterized by recurrent oral and /or genital ulcerations, and inflammation of the eyes (Uveitis).
The management of Behçet’s Disease remains problematic due to the still incomplete knowledge of the disease mechanisms determining its course in individual patients (Hatemi et al., Ann Rheum Dis. 2008).
Thus the collection of clinical, as well as genetic data, from patients with Behçet’s Disease referred to the St John Eye Hospital Group constitutes an important source of medical research.
Research is conducted in collaboration with the Rheumatology unit at Hadassah Medical Center in East Jerusalem and is supported by The Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust and The Cadogan Charity in the United Kingdom. The acquisition of advanced imaging technology (spectral OCT) through a grant from the Japanese government enhanced our capabilitiy to assess complications of Behcet's disease and correlate ocular inflammation with genetic risk factors.
The impact of the Eye Hospital Group’s investigations into Behçet’s Disease is given further authority by ongoing participation in the international multi-centre study coordinated by Professor Miles Stanford in London.
Professor Stanford is a clinical academic with a major interest in inflammation and the eye. He trained at St Thomas’ and Kings College Hospitals and has been involved in clinical and basic research into the causes and treatment of ocular inflammation for the last 20 years and currently runs dedicated tertiary referral clinics at St Thomas' Hospital for the diagnosis and treatment of these disorders. His major interests are in the epidemiology of ocular toxoplasmosis and the immunogenetics of ocular inflammation.
- The Main Hospital
- Gaza Clinic
- Hebron Hospital
- Anabta Centre
- Mobile Outreach
- Training and Teaching
- Research at the Eye Hospital
- History of the Order of St John
- St John Worldwide
- Hospital Board
- Hospital Group Directors Committee
- Jerusalem Fundraising Office
- London Fundraising and Marketing Office
- Staff Vacancies