Sustainable Development Goals


Reducing the burden of diabetes-related sight loss on India’s economy

A UK–India collaboration is changing the way patients are screened for diabetes-related sight loss and helping to reduce the burden of blindness in India.

SDG Case study G8.5 Ornate

8 October 2020

More than 70 million people in India have diabetes. A common complication of the disease is sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy (STDR), which is the main cause of blindness in working-age people in India. 

Nearly 80% of adults with diabetes reside in LMIC where primary care infrastructure is in its infancy, fuelling the global challenge of managing diabetes and its complications.  

“Complications of diabetes need to be identified and treated early to reduce the impact of blindness on quality of life and the nation’s economy,” says Sobha Sivaprasad, Professor of Retinal Clinical Studies (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology) and Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London.  

Professor Sivaprasad is leading a programme of research called ORNATE India, funded through UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund, to build research capacity and capability in India and the UK to tackle the global burden of diabetes-related visual impairment. 

The multidisciplinary team in the UK and India is developing a range of strategies and methods could change the face of diabetes-related healthcare in India. 

“Complications of diabetes need to be identified and treated early to reduce the impact of blindness on quality of life and the nation’s economy.” 

“We’ve set out ambitious plans to establish new care pathways, develop affordable technologies, reduce variations in the quality of care and analyse the economic impact of various interventions,” Professor Sivaprasad explains 

“We are testing a novel diabetic retinopathy screening programme in a district in Kerala State and are developing new holistic screening for diabetes and its complications in 20 areas in India.” 

The technology combines a hand-held camera with smartphone technology and automated grading, which helps reduce costs and makes screening accessible to individuals who are unable to travel to large well-equipped centres. 

“We are also developing a blood test that patients can administer themselves to identify markers of STDR and other complications of diabetes. This technology has the potential to revolutionise the way people with diabetes are treated globally,” she adds. 

Related links

ORNATE India project