School eye health guidelines for low and middle-income countries

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IAPB school screening program guidelines

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), School Eye Health Workgroup has published the “Standard school eye health guidelines for low and middle-income countries”.

As per Prof Serge Resnikoff – MD PhD

School health programs are a unique opportunity to provide comprehensive eye health services to potentially more than 700 million children throughout the world. Looking into the future, this number will only increase, especially in low-income countries, due to the combined effect of population growth and increasing provision of primary and secondary education schooling.

Access to eye care for an increasing number of school-age children is critically important for at least four reasons:

First, it is a golden opportunity to deliver eye health education messages ranging from hygiene to healthy diet and outdoor activities to prevent trachoma, vitamin A deficiency, diabetes and high myopia. In that respect eye health promotion – and corresponding policies – have a long-term, sustainable impact on both individuals and communities. Health education to reduce the stigma associated with visual impairment or spectacle wear is another essential yet neglected aspect.

Second, early detection and referral of children with eye problems is key to the timely provision of highly cost-effective interventions such as provision of glasses. School-based screening programs allow early detection of conditions that cannot be cured but require appropriate low vision services. These include inclusive education, to ensure that each and every child can achieve his or her full potential. This further contributes to the social and economic development at the individual and community level.

Third, irritated, sore, light-sensitive eyes significantly impede children’s ability to learn and may lead to the use of harmful practices, which can further damage the eyes. In some areas, eye morbidity represents a significant cause of school dropout. The detection and treatment of common eye conditions, such as conjunctivitis and lid infections are a critical part of child-centred comprehensive school health programs.

Fourth, considering that 80%(estimate) of what a child learns is processed through the visual system, good Vision is critical to the child’s ability to participate in and benefit from educational experiences. In that respect, improving the vision of school children contributes to improved education status, which in turn leads to better health in adult age, a spiralling up, virtuous, circle.

Because of the outstanding experience of the authors – as a team, they cover the whole spectrum of eye health
– these guidelines provide not only a very comprehensive approach to school eye health but also some practical keys to integrating it into general health policies and programs.

These guidelines are for those who are

• involved in school health or eye health
• Policymaker, a manager, a service provider
• Stakeholder or a member of the education community
• Simply interested in making peoples’ lives better

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