World Prematurity Day: How one woman is transforming the future of thousands
Photo by Duckrabbit

World Prematurity Day: How one woman is transforming the future of thousands

The Trust's latest film, A Life with Sight tells the story of Dr Subhadra Jalali – a world-class ophthalmologist, mother and mentor - who has led the way in the fight to tackle blindness in premature babies since cases were first identified in India over two decades ago. 

India is home to the highest number of premature births in the world – some 26 per cent of all preterm babies worldwide are born in India. In 2007 the government of India rapidly accelerated efforts to reduce infant mortality, setting up neonatal units all over the country to improve the outcomes of those born too soon. But as children were surviving, more and more cases of blindness were emerging. 

Retinopathy of prematurity is a condition that exclusively affects preterm babies, as their retinal blood vessels have not had a chance to fully develop before birth. Premature babies are often given oxygen in the incubator to survive, but too much oxygen is highly toxic to immature retinal blood vessels, causing total and irreversible blindness.

Dr Jalali is a global leader in retinopathy of prematurity and works to ensure that babies born prematurely in India are screened in the first few weeks of life so that sight-saving treatment can be given if needed, before it’s too late. She is instrumental in the delivery of the Trust’s programme to tackle retinopathy of prematurity across India and works with the Ministry of Health to strengthen services and build an informed workforce equipped to provide appropriate eyecare to premature babies. Thanks to Dr Jalali’s tireless dedication and the efforts of the Indian Government, today not only are the lives of premature babies in India being saved, but so too is their sight.

Dr Jalali jokes that she is grandmother to the 20,000 children she has saved the sight of. She keeps in touch with many patients she treated over twenty years ago, and follows their progress to see how they grow, develop and thrive. For Dr Jalali, there is no greater reward for a doctor than to see this happening in their lifetime. Her kindness, compassion and drive for excellence acts as a shining example of how one person can transform the future of thousands for the better.

The Trust is truly honoured to work with Dr Jalali to ensure that every child born prematurely in India has the chance to see.

Click here to watch the film.

World Prematurity Day is observed on 17 November each year to raise awareness of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide