Vision problem: Eye screening policies around the world

THARANYA ARUMUGAM


THE World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 19 million children are visually impaired globally.

Of the figure, 12 million children were found to be visually impaired due to refractive errors and 1.4 million were irreversibly blind for the rest of their lives, requiring visual rehabilitation interventions for full psychological and personal development.

Additionally, 285 million people were estimated to be visually impaired worldwide, with 39 million blind and 246 million having low vision. About 90 per cent of the world’s visually-impaired people live in developing countries.

According to WHO, 80 per cent of all visual impairment could be prevented or cured with intervention, such as with stronger government leadership, campaigns to raise awareness on eye care, and with quality and affordable eye care services.

 Children were required to undergo eye screening before the age of 7 in Bangalore, India, and the states of California, Illinois, Oregon and Missouri in the United States.

In February last year, India’s Health Ministry made it mandatory for children to get their ears and eyes screened prior to admission to Standard One in Bangalore.

In Oregon, children aged 7 or younger will be required to undergo vision screening when they start school or preschool, while children enrolling in kindergarten or first grade in public elementary schools in Missouri were required to receive a comprehensive vision examination.

Screening of student vision is mandatory in California schools, while screening must be provided annually for preschool children aged 3 or above in Illinois.

In Massachu-setts, all children entering kindergarten must provide proof that they have undergone vision screening within the last year.

In the Philippines last year, the senate approved a National Vision Screening programme for public school children, which aimed to screen all kindergarten pupils aged 5 or 6 to detect errors of refraction and amblyopia (lazy eye condition).

One out of 20 preschoolers and one out of every four school pupils in the Philippines have an eye problem.