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Effective surgery fails to attract patients unless costs are low

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who assessed the willingness of people in the Republic of The Gambia to undergo surgery to correct their trichiasis (a blinding disease common in some developing countries) have found that many people with the condition choose not to have the simple and relatively successful operation, and that the procedure's costs may be a barrier. The researchers found, however, that if the surgery could be provided locally rather than at more distant regional centers, many more people would agree to have the operation. The study, the first to look at the actual dollar costs to patients, appears in the latest issue of Ophthalmic Epidemiology.

Kevin Frick, PhD, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, "We found that the surgery itself costs just a tenth of what a trichiasis patient's visual impairment over a lifetime will cost The Gambia in lost economic productivity. If more people could be convinced to get surgery in The Gambia -- principally by making the surgery available at the local level -- the gains in productivity from those additional surgeries would substantially exceed the costs of setting up local clinics." The researchers said they hope their findings will encourage policy makers to set up local surgery clinics, thus making it easier for people with trichiasis to get the corrective surgery.

The study first identified 158 persons in The Gambia with trichiasis and then offered half the patients surgery in local health centers and the other half surgery at more distant regional clinics. The researchers used three methods to assess the cost of the trichiasis surgery and its value to the patients: the cost of the surgery itself; how much individual patients were willing to pay for the corrective procedure; and the cost of the disorder to society in terms of an untreated patient's reduced economic productivity over
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Contact: Tim Parsons or Ming Tai
paffairs@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
18-Jul-2001


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