The numbers speak for themselves: India is home to 17 percent of the world’s population, and a quarter of the world’s blind or visually impaired—more than any other country. Since 1990, India’s disability burden from eye disease has increased 24 percent and is projected to continue to rise as the population ages and life expectancy increases. More than 9 in 10 cases of vision loss in India result from non-communicable eye disease, and 3 in 4 are avoidable.
Compounding this large and growing health crisis is an acute need for additional medical research expertise generally and ophthalmic research specifically. Typically, medical education in India does not include instruction in designing and conducting research studies, and additional investigators are needed to explore the specific factors contributing to India’s epidemic of preventable eye disease and vision loss.
A team of Kellogg researchers will soon be working with colleagues in India to strengthen capacity to conduct clinical and epidemiological research needed to address these fundamental issues.
A platform for change
For nearly 40 years, the University of Michigan has collaborated with the Aravind Eye Care System (AECS), the world’s largest eye care system, to cross-train providers and operational leaders. The established, productive partnership provides the
ideal platform to launch an ambitious research training program to address India’s specific eye health challenges.
The program curriculum will emphasize clinical and population research skills. The goal is to further develop the capacity of junior and mid-career AECS faculty to identify and implement evidence-based interventions to reduce vision loss from preventable and treatable diseases.
The program will be directed by Joshua Ehrlich, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor at Kellogg, David Musch, Ph.D., M.P.H., a professor at both Kellogg and the U-M School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology, and Thulasiraj Ravilla, M.B.A, director of operations at AECS, with support from Kellogg director and chair of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Paul Lee, M.D., J.D., and AECS chairman R.D. Ravindran, M.S., D.O. A grant application for a NIH Fogarty International Research Training Award to support this five-year program is currently under review.