Healthy vision is essential for a child’s development and must be assured at an early age. The timely detection and treatment of childhood eye conditions, however, is a key challenge in low-income settings as ophthalmic professionals are scarce and awareness of childhood eye problems and available services is low.
Schools provide a convenient, cost-effective opportunity to identify children with visual disorders and to deliver eye health education. Teachers are ideally placed to identify children with learning challenges, screen them for eye problems and coordinate regular visits by an ophthalmic team. While school-based eye health programs are commonly practiced, few have been subjected to proper evaluation.
Aravind Eye Care System, Seva's partner in India, is committed to rigorously evaluating and sharing knowledge from their eye programs. In 2014, Priya Adhiseshan, Pediatric Program Manager at Aravind Pondicherry began evaluating school screening using a simple control study methodology.
For school vision testing, the usual model involved using a few 'select teachers' from each school to receive training and to test all the children in the school. The study compared this traditional model to an alternative approach whereby all the 'home room' teachers of the school were provided training to test their own students. This small, widely adoptable change resulted in huge improvements:
- 141% increase in children correctly identified who need glasses and other eye care treatment
- 42% decrease in children incorrectly identified by teachers as having an eye problem
- 393% increase in compliance with hospital referrals (due to teachers’ relationships with their own students and ability to motivate parents)
- Vision testing in a school completed 6 times faster
- 1/3 the cost (due to fewer children having to see the ophthalmic team)
This study, which was published in Ophthalmic Epidemiology and whose findings will soon be highlighted in a much more widely read Community Eye Health Journal, is one of many being conducted and shared by our partners each year. Supporting research and actively investigating and adopting alternative methods remains a cornerstone of our work as it directly translates into greater awareness and more people, particularly children, receiving the care they need to succeed.
Read the full study here