New Initiatives for Control of Blindness in Bangladesh
School eye screening programs have been an established part of the school health service since 1907 and remain universally recommended. But in our country, there are no activities in such programs. These programs are primarily aimed at detecting amblyopia and refractive errors.
Vision and learning are closely related to each other and school is the first formal space for learning. Since 80% of what a child learns is visual, in case, they have a problem she/he suffers not only from poor vision but also faces critical setbacks in development. When children have difficulty in seeing clearly, be it the blackboard or their books, it hampers their ability to learn in the classroom with their peers. These children run the risk of being labeled as poor performers, uninterested, naughty, etc., for no real fault of theirs. Often they are isolated by their peers during games, sports, or other co curricular activities in the school as well as in their community.
Key role of school eye health programs is to identify children with eye problems as early as possible and provide quality treatment on time. School eye health programs also help increase awareness among children, teachers, and school staff as well as parents about the importance of eye health and need for preventive or regular eye examinations. Timely intervention contributes to the improved participation of children within the school system– both academics as well as co curricular activities helping them realize their full potential.
Reduced vision because of uncorrected refractive errors is a major public health problem in school children in Bangladesh. Vision screening should be done to identify children with unsuspected remediable conditions, so that treatment can be offered before educational and social progress is affected. The conditions that are commonly detected in eye screening in school children are refractive errors (myopia, astigmatism and hypermetropia) and amblyopia apart from other ocular diseases. Refractive errors are common in children and easily correctable, usually with the use of spectacles. It is the commonest cause of visual impairment around the world and the second leading cause of treatable blindness. Most of the refractive errors can usually be corrected with the use of spectacles or contact lenses.
In our neighboring country India, eye screenings for school children are largely done by school teachers trained either under the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) or by the outreach teams of nonprofit eye hospitals. But in our country, there are no activities in such programs. These programs are primarily aimed at detecting amblyopia and refractive errors.
Nineoptic.com is the first e-commerce based company in Bangladesh for the vision care product. We started our journey from December 2016. We sell large selection of prescription eyewear through online. We like to take the new initiative for the school eye screening camp. We know that, this large program is not possible to complete for us alone. But we will start with small schools in rural area. These programs are very cost-effective. Especially the doctors, optimists, transport, medicine, glasses, etc. will take a lot of cost. In order to make this program successful, we must need your cooperation.
Why school children
Children in the school going age (6-14 years) represent over 25 per cent of the population in the developing countries. In developed countries, most children attend school, while only half of them do so in the developing societies. It is estimated that in Bangladesh, over 17% of the children between 6-14 years age group are out of schools. In poor families, children aged 8-10 years have to work in order to contribute to the family income. Many of them are withdrawn from the school at an early age itself. Despite this, school children still form a large, needy target group requiring identification and treatment of refractive errors due to the following reasons:
1. They are a “captive” group and can be reached through the organized educational system.
2. Reading and writing are their basic school level activities requiring good eyesight. Many children, their teachers and parents realize this.
3. Children are good ambassadors who can carry messages home on the need and benefits of eye test and good eyesight to their parents, siblings and friends, who are not attending schools.
8. It is well known fact that correction of REs improves efficiency of the child.
9. Workload on ophthalmic assistants is reduced.
10. Credibility of eye care services increases.
11. Other eye diseases can also be identified and referred for proper treatment.
12. Key health messages can be spread to community via school children (child-to-child approach) as they can be use as case detectors.
Children usually don’t complain of defective vision especially if only one eye is involved. They may not even be aware of their problem. They adjust to the poor eyesight by sitting near the blackboard, holding the book closer to their eyes, squeezing the eyes and even avoiding work requiring visual concentration. This evades early detection. Timely detection of these problems and their correction by spectacles can tremendously improve the child’s potential during his formative years. Visual impairment is an avoidable burden in the life of a child, his family and the society. Periodic screening of all children helps in early identification of visual defects and correction of prescription/use of corrective spectacles.
Our initiative may not affect the society very much, but a path will be created. Maybe the local or some international organizations will come forward with us for such social awareness program. We want your great support for school student’s eye screening program, which we are going to do.