Successful awareness of glaucoma generated; more needed, Christensen says

March 12, 2009

New York-As president and chief executive officer of the World Glaucoma Foundation, and president of the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA), Scott R. Christensen has been extensively involved in planning and coordinating efforts around the world to raise awareness about the critical need to detect glaucoma in its earliest stages possible.

New York-As president and chief executive officer of the World Glaucoma Foundation, and president of the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA), Scott R. Christensen has been extensively involved in planning and coordinating efforts around the world to raise awareness about the critical need to detect glaucoma in its earliest stages possible.

He and his colleagues at the foundation and the WGPA began planning last year’s initial observance of World Glaucoma Day (WGD) in hopes that such a coordinated effort would increase the number of public screenings and spread the word to people around the world that they should be evaluated.

Christensen shares with Ophthalmology Times the impact of WGD and his hopes for success this year.

How is today’s observance of World Glaucoma Day different from last year’s effort?

Last year’s inaugural WGD was truly extraordinary and far exceeded our wildest dreams. Given that it was the first, it can best be described as a global initiative built from the ground up. This will be the same for those who elect to join in this time. They will be forced to go to the beginning and start from scratch.

However, for many if not most, the 2009 rendition will be chiefly taking last year’s achievements and building upon them. In the reports for this year we have seen the absolute verbatim repetition of previous highly well-received activities, while others were dramatically expanded both in their scope and their outreach. As confidence has elevated, entities have become bolder in attempting more challenging projects in honor of WGD this year.

Do you feel any momentum rising after last year’s effort?

The palpable momentum for 2009 is feeding off that which was generated last time and is increasing to what will be another crescendo of activities as World Glaucoma Day (today). Those who were involved last time wanted to join in again. Those who missed out last year have witnessed how outstanding the day was and wanted to not be left out this time.

Last year was a resounding success, but assuredly this one will surpass the last. This is true for a number of reasons.

The first is that there was more lead time (this year) in that we enjoyed a full year’s timeframe to plan and promote. There were fewer months with which to operate last time. Those of us who encourage and urge involvement were more formally organized this time so that our management and chronicling of activities could be more timely and accurate. The strategy of having members of both the WGA and the WGPA accepting assignments for overseeing specific regions of the world has paid handsome dividends. All indications are at this point that there will be a significant rise in both the 1,200 events we catalogued last year as well as the 70 nations that participated in 2008.

Do you believe that you have an uphill climb with regard to the sheer number of people who should be screened for glaucoma and yet don’t get that evaluation?

There is little question that the number of people with glaucoma around the world is significantly on the rise. Many would challenge as far understated the normal number that there are 67 million people with the disease around the world. Some would say it may be double that figure. Regardless, it is clear that the public is under-served by vision professionals and for a multitude of reasons.

One of the most viable ways to examine a meaningful group of individuals is through a glaucoma screening. This has been known to be true for quite some time. Despite this belief, there are far too few screenings and, even though the number may be increasing, it is not keeping pace at all with the increasing need for the service. These initiatives are labor-intensive, time-consuming, not easily arranged, and can be costly despite having volunteers serve in both the lay and professional areas.

Have any governmental bodies issued proclamations with regard to today’s observance?

So far, we have received proclamations from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), representatives of India and Bangladesh, and the governor of the state of Wisconsin. We are still trying for more.

Related Content:

News