Interning at Aravind has been an honor for me, and it is such an inspirational place. However, my experience is not only about being inspired. It is also about helping Aravind accomplish its mission: “to eliminate needless blindness” through completing my assignment as a project student. When I started my internship nine weeks ago, I chose to focus on patient education. The project was intended to improve patients’ knowledge and management of eye health, and raise awareness about what to expect at Aravind. I noticed that I have been providing very limited details about my project. So, let me share about my project.
Here are the topics that I worked on: Aravind locations and facilities; spectacles; diabetes affecting the eye; glaucoma. The deliverables for the project will be videos and posters to be displayed on different screens inside the hospital. Below, I briefly elaborate on each topic.
- Aravind locations and facilities
Many people, including patients, do not know everything that Aravind has to offer. This impedes service delivery to those in need of care. Aravind has multiple locations for eye hospitals, community eye clinics, and vision centers. Within the eye hospitals are optical and medical shops, general medicine, radiology and chemotherapy departments, prosthetic eye clinic, labs, contact lenses clinic, eye banks, meditation rooms, restaurants, etc. The objective of the project was to clarify where each facility is found and/or its main use.
It is important to educate patients about how to choose the right pair of spectacles and how to properly take care of their spectacles. For example, some patients find wearing spectacles very uncomfortable because they chose oversized spectacles. Other patients’ lenses have accumulated many scratches as a result of improper cleaning methods. Although opticians educate patients on proper eye care, miscommunication or misunderstanding can occur. And so, patients should be warned about the possible challenges and be more educated about spectacles so they can make more informed decisions.
- Diabetes affects the eye.
At one point, India was described as the capital for diabetes. The sad reality is that diabetes affects more than 62 million Indians, which is more than 7% of the adult population. While many patients are aware of diabetes, they usually ignore the worst of its symptoms: diabetes is not limited to high levels of blood glucose. It actually impairs other organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys, teeth, organs, eyes, etc. In particular, diabetic patients’ eyes are at risk of Diabetic Retinopathy. The devil of diabetic retinopathy is that it’s progressive and is only symptomatic in late stage when the loss of vision is irreversible. Thus, a yearly eye examination is recommended to all diabetic patients to track the DR in its early stage.
Notoriously known as a sneaky thief of sight, glaucoma is an eye condition where the optic nerve is damaged due to an increase in intraocular pressure. Glaucoma’s surname derives from the fact that the disease is asymptomatic until vision loss occurs. Unfortunately, it cannot be cured, but only controlled if detected early enough. In addition, glaucoma is hereditary and more prevalent in adult populations. An annual eye checkup is highly recommended for patients who are over 40.
In a nutshell, these are the main messages that Aravind wishes to convey through videos and e-posters. My focus has been to define the scope and content for each subject, as that should be the first step to making sure the right messages are conveyed. This process involves consulting doctors and other specialists in the concerned departments in addition to talking to counselors and sisters (see my previous blog) who are constantly in touch with patients. Last, and probably most importantly, I talked to a few patients to gather their perspective and figure out their understanding of eye health, since this project is aimed at ultimately helping patients.