RAAB Repository: a new resource for eye health research and planning

Freelance Consultant Community Eye Health
Organisation: RAAB Repository

Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) has established itself as a standard population-based survey methodology for blindness and visual impairment. It is intended to collect baseline data for planning new interventions or to measure progress over time of ongoing programmes. RAAB data are used to estimate global and regional prevalence of blindness and visual impairment, for example in the Global Burden of Diseases study.

At present we know of over 137 RAABs, 11 RAAB+DR (which include a module to estimate the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy) and 36 RACSSs (the predecessor of RAAB), which have been conducted in 70 countries. Many reports from the findings have been published, but many others have not. Even when published, only a fraction of the available data can be shown and much information is not available to other researchers. There have also been instances where reports and the original data were lost because the computers where it was held crashed, the investigators moved on, etc.

It was clear that a safe storage for all this precious data was necessary – this is now available through the web portal RAAB Repository.

Not only the repository minimizes the risk of data being lost through its centralized back-up system, but it brings as many as possible RAAB findings into the public domain.

There is a strong trend in the academic world to make research data available to other researchers so that it can be optimally used. Such ‘open access’ stimulates researchers to combine data from different surveys over time or from the same country or region, to identify trends or relationships. RAAB data, for example, have recently been used to test mathematical models to estimate the required Cataract Surgical Rate in different countries, or to assess requirements for low vision services.

The Repository is very much in line with this open access ethos. If you are planning a RAAB and no survey was ever done before in your area, you can look at findings from nearby countries with similar socio-economic status and health systems to estimate the prevalence of blindness in your country. The same applies for other states or districts in larger countries.

You can search by the name of the country, state (province), district (county) or year in the table or locate a RAAB on a map. For individual studies you can view the main findings, abstracts of publications and, if the principal investigator permits, download the reports generated by the RAAB software and the original data files. If the reports cannot be downloaded directly from the website, the principal investigator can be contacted for permission. All data shown in the repository are either available from publications, or shared with written permission of the principal investigator.

Even if the principal investigator does not want the reports or data files to be shared, we do request a copy of the reports and survey data for safe keeping. These files are stored on a safe server and not accessible to visitors of the website. With this we prevent that these valuable data is lost.

The development of the RAAB Repository was funded by The Fred Hollows Foundation and Sightsavers. I also like to thank the organisations which have supported the development of RAAB: Sightsavers, Orbis, CBM, IAPB, Fight for Sight, the Fred Hollows Foundation and the International Centre for Eye Health.

Do explore the site and don’t hesitate to contact me for any comments or suggestions for further improvements, including if you know of any RAAB not currently listed.