What we know.

By: Sumrana Yasmin, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Regional Director, South East Asia & Eastern Mediterranean

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 know that poor vision can have a devastating effect on a child’s development and ultimately their life.1

So why isn’t more being done to ensure that all children have access to the eye care they need?

Vision loss and eye disease in children can have a severe impact on education and development. For example, 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).2 This is not ok. 

When we consider that many of the conditions that present themselves in children are preventable or treatable, why are so many children with vision impairment missing school?

Some incredible interventions for children’s vision are available. In some provinces of Pakistan, children have their vision screened as part of school health programs that check nutrition, dental health and deliver vaccinations.

But what happens to those kids who do not attend school because of their vision impairment? Who is reaching them?

Much can be done through primary and community programs that reach out to women and children - by strengthening the eye health component to include early detection and referral of children with eye problems many more children will receive the care they need.

Yet, to have an impact on a large scale we need to advocate for more public health programs. Programs that are innovative, integrated, strong and sustainable.

Because the burden of blindness lies with developing countries, with the prevalence in children approximately 10 times greater in developing than developed countries,3 we know where our priorities need to be.

The good news is that child eye health is a public health issue that we can realistically overcome. The mandate is clear - communities, society and governments must come together to ensure eye health for all children, regardless of gender, disability, race, religion or geographic location.

This is an edited version of the article ‘A Global Pathway to Child Eye Health’ which appeared in Mivision ophthalmic journal, Issue 100, April 2015. Reproduced with kind permission. https://www.mivision.com.au/a-global-pathway-to-child-eye-health/

References  

  1. Chadha, R. K., & Subramanian, A. (2010). The effect of visual impairment on quality of life of children aged 3–16 years. British Journal of Ophthalmology, bjo-2010.
  2. Nations Secretary General’s Report on the Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (2011) UN Doc A/66/230. Accessed at: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N11/442/45/PDF/N1144245.pdf?OpenElement
  3. Wu L, Sun X, Zhou X & Weng C, Causes and 3-year-incidence of blindness in Jing-An District, shanghai, China 2001-42009, BMC Ophthalmology 2011, 11:10.

 

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