We know that children in all regions of the world are affected by a range of eye diseases and conditions, some of which may lead to permanent vision impairment. We also know that poor vision can have a serious effect on a child’s development, education and ultimately their life. It is estimated that at least one third of the world’s 72 million children who are not in school, have a disability (including those with a vision impairment).[i]
Many eye diseases and conditions are preventable or treatable, including vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive error. A comprehensive eye examination by a qualified clinician and good quality spectacles – that’s all it takes to deal with the menace of uncorrected refractive error! There are numerous school and child eye health programmes around the globe with support from governments, INGOs, NGOs, corporates and other stakeholders. And yet, there are many more children with vision impairment that are not accessing eye health services, not wearing their spectacles and missing out on education opportunities. So what are the barriers which limit their access? Is it the cost of spectacles or unavailability of refractive services? What are the factors which influence their choices? Is it culture or cosmesis?
We know that child eye health is a public health issue which cannot be addressed unless we understand the core reasons and strategise our interventions accordingly. As someone who has high myopic astigmatism since childhood and wore spectacles for most of my life, I understand and can relate to some of the factors associated with the behavior surrounding spectacles, especially for girls. However, there is a lack of evidence which hinders effective programme development and advocacy.
Keeping this in view, the Brien Holden Vision Institute conducted a study in Pakistan to determine and compare the factors associated with compliance of spectacle wear between two groups of school children – children who get free spectacles and children who only get prescription. We learnt that to have impact on a large scale, we need to bring eye health services closer to the communities to improve access; we need to put specific focus on health education and health promotion; and we cannot underestimate the importance of multi-sectoral collaboration. The 10GA course will share the key findings of the study and its programmatic implications with delegates which can be factored while designing and implementing the child eye health programs.
Don’t miss out on Course 27 Uncorrected Refractive Errors on Saturday, October 29.
*Sumrana Yasmin was an Eye Health Leader 2013, nominated by the Brien Holden Vision Institute.