213953 Pakistan Successful screening and management of visual refractive errors in rural schools

Monday, November 8, 2010

Irfan Ahmed, MD MPH , Health Department, Plan Pakistan, Islamabad, Pakistan
Luis Tam, MD DrPH , Plan USA, Arlington, VA
BACKGROUND: Visual refractive errors among school-aged children limit their learning abilities, education and their confidence. Plan International, a child-centered humanitarian organization, implemented a pilot School Eye Health Programme in 2005 in 27 rural primary and elementary schools. A 3% prevalence rate of refractive error was found. THE INITIATIVE: The pilot project was scaled in 2006 to cover all schools in the sub-district of Chakwal (tot pop 550,000). In close collaboration with the government and a local NGO, training modules and examination/screening kits were developed and provided to schoolteachers. A schoolteacher accompanied the students found positive at the screening to a referral hospital. An ophthalmologist re-examined all referred girls and boys and those having refractive error were provided free glasses. Out-of-school children were also screened through trained government field workers. RESULTS: During 2006-8, 131,703 children were screened by school-teachers and 12,555 were referred to the hospital. 7,631 children were provided free glasses of their choice. The prevalence of refractive error was 5.79% and it was higher in girls than boys. Schoolteachers' participation in the eye-screening program helped them understand that its correction enhanced the children's school performance. Children having glasses were more confident; few drop outs of children corrected for refractive error were observed and children began participating in extra-curricular activities. CONCLUSIONS. Annual school eye screening should be done in all schools, given its cost-effectiveness. This program is being replicated in the Vehari district with the support of the NGO Sight Saver.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Provision of health care to the public

Learning Objectives:
Explain the challenges and opportunities to implement a visual screening and management program in rural schools in developing countries.

Keywords: Vision Care, School-Based Programs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I directed the project described in this abstract
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.