The Impact of Successful Cataract Surgery on Quality of Life, Household Income and Social Status in South India
To explore the hypothesis that sight restoring cataract surgery provided to impoverished rural communities will improve not only visual acuity and vision-related quality of life (VRQoL) but also poverty and social status.
Participants were recruited at outreach camps in Tamil Nadu, South India, and underwent free routine manual small incision cataract surgery (SICS) with intra-ocular lens (IOL) implantation, and were followed up one year later. Poverty was measured as monthly household income, being engaged in income generating activities and number of working household members. Social status was measured as rates of re-marriage amongst widowed participants. VRQoL was measured using the IND-VFQ-33. Associations were explored using logistic regression (SPSS 19).
Of the 294 participants, mean age ± standard deviation (SD) 60±8 years, 54% men, only 11% remained vision impaired at follow up (67% at baseline; p<0.001). At one year, more participants were engaged in income generating activities (44.7% to 77.7%; p<0.001) and the proportion of households with a monthly income <1000 Rps. decreased from 50.5% to 20.5% (p<0.05). Overall VRQoL improved (p<0.001). Participants who had successful cataract surgery were less likely to remain in the lower categories of monthly household income (OR 0.05–0.22; p<0.02) and more likely to be engaged in income earning activities one year after surgery (OR 3.28; p = 0.006). Participants widowed at baseline who had successful cataract surgery were less likely to remain widowed at one year (OR 0.02; p = 0.008).
These findings indicate the broad positive impact of sight restoring cataract surgery on the recipients’ as well as their families’ lives. Providing free high quality cataract surgery to marginalized rural communities will not only alleviate avoidable blindness but also - to some extent - poverty in the long run.