The Himalayan Cataract Program (HCP) is one step closer to receiving a huge grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Representatives from the MacArthur Foundation just announced that HCP has been selected as one of the foundation's eight semi-finalists for a $100 million grant.
This is all a part of MacArthur's 100&Change grant program. MacArthur describes all of its semi-finalists as "ambitious proposals" that have a ton of "passion, range, and creativity."
HCP's goal is to eradicate cataract-related blindness in the nations of Ghana, Ethiopia, and Nepal. After the HCP has worked out a sustainable model in these three countries, it will work to deliver quality cataract care to other parts of the developing world.
The World Health Organization estimates that 39 million people suffer from blindness around the world. Of these 39 million, 20 million are blind due to cataracts. 90 percent of these 39 million blind people live in developing regions of the world.
Although cataracts are very common, they are quite easy to treat with the proper training and equipment. In fact, cataracts can easily be cured using the latest advances in laser-correction surgery.
HCP works with local healthcare providers in these three countries to bring the cost of cataract surgery down to $25. Since 91 percent of people with cataracts refuse to get surgery due to the high cost, reducing the price of treatment is a huge focus of HCP's work.
HCP also works with local surgeons to ensure they understand how to perform successful cataract surgery. HCP's training program, known as "train the trainer," puts one cataract expert in contact with local doctors. Over the course of a few weeks, local doctors learn how to successfully perform cataract surgery. This training method creates a positive ripple effect in the community. After the expert leaves, local doctors pass on their skills to medical students and colleagues, and the knowledge slowly spreads throughout the country.
HCP's training program keeps its overall expenditures quite low while still helping a large amount of people. If HCP were to receive the $100 million grant, it could help around 500,000 people in these three countries.
In its proposal to the MacArthur Foundation, HCP cited recent studies that have shown how billions of dollars in revenue are wasted every year in developing nations due to blindness. HCP believes giving local populations in these three nations easier access to cataract surgery would help these communities prosper tremendously.
HCP also said it will use the $100 million to help spread its training model to other developing nations. There's no word yet on what other countries will be on HCP's list.
Geoffrey Tabin, co-founder of HCP, released a press statement to try and convince MacArthur to give his organization the grant. Dr. Tabin said that MacArthur's grant "could enable the Himalayan Cataract Project to reach the tipping point to eliminate needless blindness on a global scale."
The other semi-finalists on MacArthur's list include Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee, Internet Archive, the Carter Committee, the Human Diagnosis Project, Catholic Relief Services, HarvestPlus, and Rice 360° Institute for Global Health.
HCP was founded around 20 years ago by both Dr. Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit. These two ophthalmologists have brought high-quality hospital care to underdeveloped regions around the world.