Regular eye tests are important for us all – but they are vital for the world’s children
In a quick office poll, 60 percent of my co-workers declared that they have been for a professional eye test within the last two years – a percentage that should be closer to 100 given guidelines, the number of people sitting in front of computer screens, and the relative ease of accessing eye tests.
Screening children’s vision is even more important. And though children in developed countries are likely to have their vision checked multiple times, increasing the chances of resolving any issues by the critical age of 4-5, the situation looks very different in developing countries. In India, there are currently no formal national vision and eye screening guidelines for children (1). In Nepal, children’s eye screening relies on the work of volunteers.
Ophthalmologists certainly provide invaluable support in regions struggling to provide appropriate eye care; nominations to the Champions of Change category in our recent Power List (2) prove that point, as does our recent feature on ophthalmology in remote locations (3). But is there any way we can all do more?
I recently spoke to Rahul Ali, Country Director for Orbis India. He told me about the largest national network of Children’s Eye Centers in the world – 33 in 17 states – which Orbis created, and about the Refractive Error Among Children (REACH) program that started in India in 2016, and is now being implemented in Nepal.
Ali also stressed how important comprehensive school-based screening is for children’s education and future prospects – and for simply allowing them to enjoy being children. Seven-year-old Rabi from Nepal was diagnosed with myopia through an Orbis-supported screening program; his teacher immediately noticed how much more outgoing and interactive he became when his vision problems were properly addressed. When my son was recently asked what he wanted to be, he replied incredulously: “A kid!” – and with corrected vision Rabi is now able to fully embrace childhood.
Orbis is currently fundraising for the See My Future appeal (4), which aims to provide screening for 300,000 children in Nepal. I want to help change the eyecare landscape in Nepal – even in the smallest way – and I hope you will, too.
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- SG Honavar, “Pediatric eye screening – Why, when, and how”, Indian J Ophthalmol, 66, 889 (2018). PMID: 29941725.
- “The Power List 2019”, The Ophthalmologist, 64, 16 (2019).
- “Off the Beaten Track”, The Ophthalmologist, 62, 16 (2019).
- Orbis, "See My Future" (2019). Available at: tinyurl.com/y5x8qc8m. Accessed April 15, 2019.