Visual impairment is a public health problem of global proportions. More than two hundred and eighty-five million people worldwide have some form of visual impairment. Thirty-nine million of them are blind. Ninety percent of those affected by blindness and severe visual impairment live in the poorest countries in the world. Fourteen million live in India alone. Yet a good proportion of worldwide blindness, including 75% of corneal disease, is curable. The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute is one of the world’s preeminent institutions for cornea health and expertise. Funded entirely by global philanthropist Tej Kohli as part of his mission to eradicate avoidable blindness worldwide by 2030, the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute is a global leader in research and development, preventative medicine and Cornea transplants. Access to affordable treatment can only be achieved through systemic long-term efforts to create widespread availability of high quality eye care facilities that are delivered by people who have the resources, technical skills and compassion to handle diverse population segments.
Patients of the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute receive completely free treatment. In the last two years the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute has hosted more than one hundred and sixty-seven thousand outpatient visits, collected twenty-six thousand donor cornea and utilized nearly sixteen thousand corneas for transplants. The Institute undertook more than thirty-one thousand surgical procedures, delivered over seven hundred presentations, published one hundred and forty-eight publications and trained more than one hundred and twenty clinicians.
Blindness is heavily impacted by poverty. Between six and seven million of the twelve million people worldwide who are currently waiting for Cornea transplants live in India. Whilst the average age of a patient needing a corneal transplant in Canada is seventy-five, in India the average age is just sixteen years old, which severely impacts life prospects and outcomes.
By also taking education, treatment and preventative medicine directly to the poorer rural areas where sixty-six per cent of Indians live, the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute is able to additionally target these high-impact populations that are living with curable corneal blindness. At just one rural village location that is not reached by any charities or NGOs, the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute recently completed more than two thousand Cornea transplants during a single year.
Preventing and controlling and eliminating corneal blindness is also a global objective. Achieving this mission will require a scalable and affordable solution for the masses, and through the acquisition of proprietary new biotechnologies, philanthropist Tej Kohli is dedicated to making this a reality.
Through international collaboration between leading clinicians, technology pioneers and global hubs of excellence such as the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, it is a now a visible reality that by 2030 avoidable corneal blindness could be controlled, reduced and then eradicated worldwide.
Many people who are blighted by blindness and other ophthalmic issues are prevented them from participating in society. For many it means being cast out due to their lack of ability to contribute financially. We must not allow this to continue in the 21st century. It is our duty to step in and support with passion, pride, hard work and our guarantee of a financial commitment.
We are proud of our longstanding history and global reputation in the area of ophthalmology. We now have a vital opportunity to extend our work as new technologies can be implemented to help in reducing corneal blindness. We hope to enhance our activities significantly and continue to develop a Global Resource Centre for corneal blindness. We will increase the number of surgeries we undertake and work towards our own goal of eliminating avoidable blindness.
There is an estimated 23 million individuals worldwide who have unilateral corneal blindness while 4.9 million are bilaterally blind. Corneal blindness may be treated by donor cornea transplantation but there is a severe shortage: 53% of the global population has no access to human donor corneas. The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute’s efforts to eliminate cornea blindness range from community health and prevention, expansion of eye banking efforts and quality medical care, all the way to the development of regenerative new biotechnologies.