Keeping the ball rolling.
By: Ly Huynh, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Country Representative, Vietnam
Making the wheels go around is what we are doing in Vietnam. A country where optometry, until last year, wasn’t recognised as a medical profession. We saw a need, we supported two schools of optometry, one at the University of Medicine Pham Ngoc Thach in Ho Chi Minh City and the other at Hanoi Medical University, and we now have over 100 students learning to become registered, recognised optometric professionals.
Getting optometry recognised was only part of our work in Vietnam. We need to keep rolling.
In a population of 90 million we only 10 qualified optometrists but the incidence of refractive errors (the need for a pair of glasses to see clearly) in schoolchildren is high. In 2013 it was identified that 93% of all vision impairment in school children in Vietnam, aged 12 to 15 years, was due to refractive error and 20% of it was caused by myopia1. The reality is that we are only seeing the numbers increase.
We simply need more optometrists to reach more children.
Tran Minh Anh, one of Vietnam’s optometrists, will see hundreds of children over the course of the summer. Time and time again the majority present with vision problems that have gone undetected.
According to Minh Anh, she could travel the length of Vietnam, working every day and still not reach all the children who are in need of vision correction. But she is hopeful and determined to keep moving forward.
She has stories that inspire all of us in eye care to keep working. For example, she comes across children with low vision who have been treated as if they were blind. Minh diagnoses their vision problem, provides them with care and counselling, and a pair of glasses. Suddenly their worlds open up with opportunities and normalcies that they previously couldn’t dream of.
The beauty is that for the large majority of children with vision impairment a pair of glasses can get or keep them in the classroom, and onto the playground mixing with their peers. And with each graduate from our Schools of Optometry, thousands more children will be screened, treated and on the path to a life with healthy vision..but that will take time and we are determined to keep the ball rolling.
For more information about Brien Holden Vision Institute visit www.brienholdenvision.org
1. Paudel, P et al (2014). Prevalence of vision impairment and refractive error in school children in Ba Ria – Vung Tau province, Vietnam. Clin Exp Ophthal.(http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ceo.12273/abstract Accessed 3 Feb 2014).