Summary of Research Results: Jonathan Curtis

Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow volunteers frequently pursue public health research studies in Unite For Sight's Global Impact Lab program. The research topics are developed by Unite For Sight and the partner eye clinics, the research studies are approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), and the research findings are submitted to the eye clinic partners for program development.

"The Link Between Poverty and Blindness in Ghana,"Jonathan Curtis, Public Health Student, Yale University School of Public Health

In Phase I of a multi-part study to determine if there is a difference in poverty level between cataract patients and non-cataract patients, a survey of 305 patients occurred during Summer 2011 to evaluate relationships between various factors related to demographics, patient eye history, and poverty level, as indicated by poverty score. The 305 patients were living in poverty and received eye care by Crystal Eye Clinic's outreach team in villages, slums, and a refugee camp.

Although there was a suggested trend of improving best-eye visual acuity with decreasing poverty, the correlation was not strong. There were also no strong correlations between poverty score and factors such as age, gender, time of vision loss, and healthcare expenditure. Notably, approximately 20% of all participants reported unemployment due to eye problems. Of these, the average poverty score was 34.7 (on a scale of 0-100, with 0 being the greatest level of poverty).

Within each ten-digit poverty score range, 70-90% of the cataract patients followed through and decided to receive cataract surgery by Crystal Eye Clinic; since the patients were unable to pay, the surgical expenses were funded by Unite For Sight.

For lower poverty scores, the number of participants who reported that they had not previously visited an eye doctor was greater than the number that had; however, as poverty score increased, the %age remained consistent at 35-40% who reported that they had not previously visited an eye doctor.  Primary reasons for not previously visiting an eye doctor included the belief that it was not necessary, the lack of money, and the lack of transportation.

The majority of participants with no prior cataract surgery had poverty scores between 31 and 40.

In Phase II (Summer 2012), the patients who underwent cataract surgery will be compared with those who did not decide to follow through with cataract surgery, and any shifts in poverty scores will be assessed.