SEATTLE — In recognition of its groundbreaking work to prevent debilitating blindness and provide affordable, world-class eye care to the poor, the Aravind Eye Care System, based in Tamil Nadu, India, has won the 2008 Gates Award for Global Health. The $1 million Gates Award–the world’s largest prize for international health–honors extraordinary efforts to improve health in developing countries.
Founded by Dr. G. Venkataswamy in 1976, Aravind has saved millions of people in India from debilitating blindness. Cataracts account for more than half the cases of blindness in India. In the past year, Aravind provided out-patient care to approximately 2.4 million patients and performed more than 280,000 surgeries. Thanks in part to Aravind’s efforts, the estimated number of blind people in India fell from 8.9 million in 1990 to 6.7 million in 2002, a decline of 25%.
Many years ago, my grandfather, who lived in a small village in Tamilnadu (Vazhavandi), and many other elederly men and women of surrounding villages boarded a bus that took people from villages for to Aravind hospital. It was a free service to get their eyes tested and treated. My grandfather suffered from acute cataract and was grateful for the care. His quality of life was greatly improved after a cataract operation (done for free). There are literally millions of elderly people in rural Tamilnadu who have benefited from the care provided by Aravind Eye Care network.
I am absolutely delighted. An earlier post with a video on Aravind Eye Hospital.
Gates Foundation has done more good than any organization – public or private – I know of. The Sage of Omaha knew it. We appreciate it. [Thanks Becky (of Gates Foundation, Global Health Communications team) for passing the news on.]