Intersectional analysis of eye health in older adults in the Indian Sundarbans

Intersectional analysis eye health India

Visual impairment disproportionately affects people in low-income countries. A high proportion
of visual impairment can be prevented or cured. Yet, care seeking for eye health is restricted for women and older
adults. This article uses an intersectional approach to understand how eye care seeking behaviour changes in
men and women with increases in age and visual impairment in a poor and underserved region of India. It highlights the commonalities and differences between the various groups.

The article is based on qualitative data. People aged 50 and over were categorized into young-old,
middle-old and old-old. Men and women with low vision/high visual impairment were selected from each of
the three age groups. In-depth interviews were carried out with 24 study participants. Data saturation was attained. The JHPIEGO Gender Analysis Framework underpins the study.

Various symptoms are associated with visual impairment. The young-old with low vision do not report
much difficulty due to visual impairment. Study participants with high visual impairment, and in the older age
groups do. Difficulty in doing regular chores due to visual impairment is rarely reported. Impaired vision is considered to be inevitable with advancing age. Care seeking is delayed for eye health. Typically, outpatient care from nearby health care facilities was sought by men and women in every group. Inpatient care is sought to a limited extent, and mostly restricted to men. Eye care seeking behaviour changes among men with increases in age and visual impairment. Women consistently seek less care than men for both outpatient and inpatient eye care. Study participants of both genders became dependent with increasing age and visual impairment. Traditional patriarchal privileges enjoyed by men (such as mobility and economic independence) decreased with age. The vulnerability of women was compounded with time.

The article presents a granulated understanding of eye care seeking behaviour among older adults in
India. The differences between different groups need to be taken into account in programmes promoting universal access to health care.

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Full reference

Barman D and Mishra M (2020) How does eye care seeking behaviour change with increasing age and visual impairment? Intersectional analysis of older adults in the Indian Sundarbans, BMC Geriatrics (2020) 20:71

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