Fighting blindness in China | Orbis
Patients and family sit in the waiting room at Shandong Hospital, China

Fighting blindness in China

Orbis has worked in China since the Flying Eye Hospital visited Guangzhou in 1982. Since establishing an office in Shanghai in 1999, our long-term projects have helped create quality, affordable, and accessible eye care with a particular focus on rural areas.

Over the years, we have carried out 220 projects in 25 regions in China, trained over 20,000 health workers, conducted over 4.5 million screenings, and completed over 130,000 sight-saving operations. We have conducted best-in-class training projects both on board the Flying Eye Hospital and in local hospitals.

Our Flying Eye Hospital has landed in China over 40 times with the last hands-on Flying Eye Hospital training project taking place in Shenyang in 2016. We conducted a training project in a partner hospital in Linyi in 2018. In 2021, our Flying Eye Hospital team delivered a virtual training project to help combat diabetic retinopathy when in-person training wasn't possible due to the pandemic.

The Problem

8.7 million people are living with blindness in China, 4.7 million with severe vision loss, and 46 million with moderate vision loss according to a 2019 survey.

Most eye care professionals are disproportionately located and practicing in urban areas, while the majority of people living with blindness live in rural areas. In 2000, Orbis began carrying out long-term projects to help create quality, affordable, and accessible eye care for rural communities. Working closely with our partners, we continue to mentor, train, and inspire local teams to save sight in their communities.

Success in China

Since establishing an office in Shanghai in 1999, we’ve helped create quality, affordable, and accessible eye care for rural communities, particularly in western China’s remote ethnic minority communities.

We are recognized as a leading blindness prevention organization in China and are considered by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and other non-governmental organizations as one of the most capable, effective, and professional sight-saving organizations in China.

Orbis is also recognized by the Chinese Ministry of Health as a key partner in eye care. This collaboration has led to the largest study of blindness in China's rural areas, a major initiative across six provinces and 60 hospitals to train eye care teams according to international standards, and a full assessment of ophthalmic capacity at China's 2,800 county hospitals.

Impact In 2022

Thanks to our partners and supporters, since the Flying Eye Hospital first landed in China, Orbis has:

  • Hosted over 40 Flying Eye Hospital visits
  • Supported Shanxi Eye Hospital to establish Shanxi Pediatric Ophthalmology Wing (the first pediatric ophthalmology center in China)
  • Supported the establishment or improvement of pediatric eye centers at nine partner hospitals
  • Supported the establishment or improvement of:
    • 204 secondary hospitals
    • 37 tertiary hospitals
    • Nine wet labs,
    • One retinopathy of prematurity center
    • One eye bank
  • Strengthened 118 community and township health centers' capacity by providing vision screening equipment and training

What We're Doing Next

We’re expanding efforts to find sustainable solutions to address the lack of quality, affordable, and accessible eye care services for the rural poor. We’re building rural eye care networks, developing partner ophthalmic skills, addressing the issue of childhood blindness throughout China, and developing responsive eye care solutions for the most vulnerable groups in the rural Guizhou Province.

In addition to providing care for the most marginalized groups in China, we have a focus on improving the quality of eye care for children and are developing a comprehensive Child Eye Care Network Exploration to address the issue.

This strategic approach to pediatric eye care focuses on uncorrected refractive error using the three-tier blindness prevention model. Project activities include community-based primary care, the creation of referral networks, and capacity building in ophthalmic hospitals and vision centers.

Additionally, we’re collaborating with the National Committee for Prevention of Blindness to address diabetic eye disease. We’re also leading a collaborative effort in the much-needed area of residency training in China, in accordance with the International Council of Ophthalmology.

Thanks to our partners and supporters, we're making great ground in the fight against avoidable blindness in China. But there's still a long way to go to reach the millions of children and adults who are unable to access the care they need.

  • You can help fight avoidable blindness in china

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Shunwen Wang China 3


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Our Partners in China

  • Ministry of Health
  • Nationa lCommittee for Prevention of Blindness
  • Shanghai Eye Disease Prevention and Treatment Center
  • Zhongshan Ophthalmology Center, Sun Yat-sen University

If you are interested in working with Orbis to help improve the quality of life in communities around the world, please contact us at [email protected].

We are especially looking for program partners in the field of pediatric eye care, trachoma elimination, strengthening human resources for eye health, gender equity, disability inclusion, internally displaced populations, and community-based primary care.

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