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Original Research

Experiences of vision impairment in Papua New Guinea: implications for blindness prevention programs

Submitted: 13 January 2016
Revised: 15 April 2016
Accepted: 17 August 2016
Published: 20 October 2016

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Author(s) : Burnett A, Yashadhana A, Cabrera Aguas M, Hanni Y, Yu M.

Anthea Burnett

Citation: Burnett A, Yashadhana A, Cabrera Aguas M, Hanni Y, Yu M.  Experiences of vision impairment in Papua New Guinea: implications for blindness prevention programs. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3873. Available: (Accessed 22 October 2017)


Introduction: A personís capability to access services and achieve good eye health is influenced by their behaviours, perceptions, beliefs and experiences. As evidence from Papua New Guinea (PNG) about peopleís lived experience with vision impairment is limited, the purpose of the present study was to better understand the beliefs, perceptions and emotional responses to vision impairment in PNG.
Methods: A qualitative study, using both purposive and convenience sampling, was undertaken to explore common beliefs and perceptions about vision impairment, as well as the emotional responses to vision impairment. In-depth interviews were undertaken with 51†adults from five provinces representing culturally and geographically diverse regions of PNG.†Grounded theory was used to elicit key themes from interview data.
Results: Participants described activities of everyday life impacted by vision impairment and the related worry, sadness and social exclusion. Common beliefs about the causes of vision impairment were environmental stressors (sun, dust, dirt and smoke), ageing and sorcery.
Conclusions: Findings provide insight into the unique social context in PNG and identify a number of programmatic and policy implications, such as the need for preventative eye health information and services, addressing persisting beliefs in sorcery when developing health information packages, and the importance of coordinating with counselling and well-being services for people experiencing vision impairment.

Key words: blindness, blindness prevention, experiences, Papua New Guinea, vision impairment.

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