Preventing Loss of Sight in Laos
Laos had twice as many cases of childhood blindness as neighboring Thailand in 2010, a reflection of the lack of availability of good local healthcare. As part of the Better Vision for Better Life project, IRD brought an increased level of eyecare to one corner of this Southeast Asian nation.
Working closely with the Lao National Center for Opthamology and the ministries of Education and Health, IRD brought comprehensive pediatric eye care to three districts in Khammouane Province: Boualapa, Gnomalat, and Mahaxay. The project was funded by USAID through AED.
Trainings and refresher trainings were offered to over 200 village health workers and 200 primary school teachers from 150 villages in the target districts. Topics included basic eye health and organizing child vision screening days.
The provincial ophthalmologist and selected health department staff taught participants basic screening techniques to identify refractive errors and other eye problems. Village health workers mobilized community members to ensure that younger children are screened.
In addition, up to two staff from each of the six clinics in the three districts, and three to four staff from each district hospital (up to 30 participants), received more specialized training on eye screening and treatment of the most common eye problems in Laos. Children found to have vision problems during the village-level screenings were referred to local health personnel for confirmation screenings and to identify treatment needs. If a child needed glasses, IRD arranged for them to have further testing and fitting. When a child was found to have cataracts or other serious vision problems that surgery could help correct, IRD coordinated with local health authorities and the provincial ophthalmologist to provide these services. IRD covered costs associated with the surgery, including transport and lodging for the child and accompanying family members.
The Better Vision for Better Life project was funded by USAID through AED and implemented by IRD. It ran from February 2010 through July 2011.