A school health program reaching towards healthy vision for millions of children in Pakistan.
By: Hasan Minto, Director of Programs, Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation and Our Children’s Vision and Courtenay Holden, Marketing and Communications Manager, Our Children’s Vision
It is no secret that improved access to eye health services for children can affect their literacy, education attainment, social interactions and future employability. Innovative school health programs in Pakistan are elevating the importance of eye care for children by including eye-health services in school programs across Punjab.
Many of us have said for years that eye health needs to be included in school health programs. A concept led by the eye care industry is now seeing other sectors looking to us for advice and guidance. We see this as cause for celebration!
In Punjab, Pakistan, the Ministry for Health and Ministry for Education have come together under the leadership of Dr Murad Raas and Dr Yasmin Rashid to launch a School Health Program. The Ministers have engaged the expertise and experience of Our Children’s Vision partners, the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation, Fred Hollows Foundation, Sightsavers and CBM to design and develop how eye-health will be an integral part of the program. The College of Ophthalmology & Allied Vision Sciences under the leadership of Prof. Asad Aslam Khan will lead the implementation of this much-needed initiative in Punjab.
The program will reach nine million children in government schools across 36 districts.
Reaching these children will take a gamut of skills and services - health care professionals, school health coordinators, administrators, and dozens more. The Ministry for Health is employing 1,700 doctors who will work alongside 1,700 already employed school health coordinators. The Ministry for Education has enlisted thousands of essential human resources to undertake health promotion, eye checks and offer support to medical teams.
In Punjab, they are getting it right. A comprehensive school health program should include not just nutrition, dental and vaccinations but also eye health. Eye health services are not luxury services, they hold a particularly important place in a child’s life – because clear vision is the thread that runs through almost every aspect of a child’s development and growth.
We congratulate the Pakistan Government teams at the Ministry for Education and Ministry for Health for bringing this important school health program to fruition. Initiatives like this are another cause for celebration. There are exciting times ahead and many more opportunities for us to make a difference.