Blindness can be a distressing experience for anyone, irrespective of their age. However, it can be particularly devastating when it strikes at an early stage of life. Consider a child who suffers from an undiagnosed, untreated, or uncorrected refractive error – their future prospects for education and socioeconomic development become uncertain, and they may face adversities that lead to a life of deprivation and destitution. Uncorrected refractive errors are the primary cause of visual impairment in children, and most parents and teachers have little knowledge about the short and long-term consequences of these errors. Left untreated, refractive errors can progress to amblyopia, which can ultimately result in blindness. Despite the World Health Organization’s prioritization of refractive errors in children, there has been no national-level study conducted in Bangladesh to determine the prevalence of this error among school children. In this context, the Al-Basar International Foundation has made a significant contribution by addressing this issue and providing treatment for various eye diseases in children.
The objective of the project is to screen over 200,000 students from more than 200 schools in Dhaka for visual problems and provide comprehensive treatment through specialized eye hospitals. This includes surgeries, medications, eyeglasses, and other necessary medical care. Additionally, the project aims to gather statistics on visual impairments among students and provide the data to the government to encourage them to take necessary initiatives in addressing the issue.
By 2015, the School Program for Eye Health had successfully provided eye care services to more than 40,163 students in 104 schools located in and around Dhaka city. In addition, the program had trained 190 teachers from various schools to conduct visual screenings and promote awareness among students and their parents about the importance of maintaining good eye health.
The results of the project indicated that out of the 40,163 students screened, 3,266 students (8.1%) had eye problems. Of those with eye problems, 1,433 students received refractions within the school campus, 501 were referred to hospitals for treatment, 25 underwent eye surgeries, and 815 students were provided with eyeglasses.
However, during the program period, some parents refused to allow their children to undergo surgery, either due to fear of adverse effects or a desire to wait until the end of the academic year. To address this issue, social counselors visited these families to explain the importance of the surgery and convince them to have it done at a convenient time.
It is worth noting that the rate of eye problems among school children in Bangladesh is relatively high compared to other countries. These problems not only affect the sight of schoolchildren but also have a negative impact on their academic achievements and overall self-development.
PROGRAM ACTION PLAN
The action plan for the program involved several key steps. First, schools were selected to participate in the program. Next, a group of teachers were chosen to receive training in measuring vision and detecting eye abnormalities at the school level, with the aim of referring affected students to eye hospitals. Student information was recorded in a coding sheet to track progress.
Additionally, training courses were held for the medical staff of Al-Basar International Foundation who were responsible for implementing the program. A specialized course was also provided on data entry and statistical analysis using SPSS software.
This health program was the result of an agreement signed in November 2014 by Al-Basar International Foundation, QRCS, and the Islamic Call Organization.
The school eye health program has been a success in identifying and addressing visual problems among school children in Bangladesh. Therefore, it has been decided to continue the program on the same pattern to ensure that more students benefit from it. This will involve selecting schools, training teachers to detect visual abnormalities, and referring affected students to eye hospitals for treatment. The program will also continue to record student information and provide training courses for medical staff to ensure effective implementation. By continuing the program, more students will have access to comprehensive eye care and treatment, which will improve their academic performance and overall quality of life.