Statistics show that every five seconds, someone in the world goes blind and in every minute this someone is a child. In an effort to address vision problems in young children in the country, Rotary in Malaysia is seeking the partnership of state governments, beginning with Perak, to work on the National Early Intervention Eye Health Framework.
This framework does not focus on any one specific eye condition but seeks to cover the underlying issues that are common to the prevention and treatment of eye disease and vision loss.
Eye conditions are best detected and corrected in children below the age of 7 years. Childhood eye disorders include cataract, Retinopathy of Prematurity, Vitamin A deficiency, lazy eye, myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism.
All of these could be detected early if the framework is in place. It recommends, among others, that comprehensive paediatric eye exam is scheduled for children every two years, distance visual acuity screening be made compulsory for children under six years old, a module on vision screening be included in the curriculum of pre-school education of teachers and a mandatory one-day workshop on vision screening for trainee teachers prior to graduation.
The framework’s objective is to create awareness in eye health and to educate parents, educators and the society at large to identify and correct vision problems at a young age. It will be a pioneer project for children in Perak. The gist of the framework was presented at the “Seeing Eye to Eye” Joint Seminar at Syeun Hotel in Ipoh recently.
In its fourth year, this eye seminar, jointly organised by Rotary International District 3300 and District 3310, is hosted alternatively between the two districts. This year’s seminar was hosted by District 3300 and Ipoh was chosen as the host city. Spearheading the organising committee was Dr Lee Mun Wai of Rotary Club of Greentown, Ipoh.
“This seminar is in conjunction with World Sight Day, an international day of awareness marked on the second Thursday of October annually. We’ve 12 speakers, comprising eye specialists, a paediatrician, an optometrist, a General Practitioner, and the President of Adult Blindness Association of Selangor. Our keynote speaker, Dr Rekha Shetty, Past District Governor of District 3230, came all the way from India. She is a published author, an entrepreneur, and an original thinker in Management and the Social Sciences. She has, for the past 11 years, made eradicating avoidable blindness her goal in life,” said Dr Lee.
Representing Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry bin Abdul Kadir was his Special Officer Dr Azizah Johor. In her speech, she urged those who are able to make a difference to come forward. “Sight is a very precious gift and everyone should take care of their eyes. Outreach programmes, supported by mobile medical teams, should be organised for the benefit of those living in rural areas,” she said.
Eye health is one of many causes championed by Rotary International. According to the World Health Organisation, 80 per cent of global blindness is preventable. Creating public awareness with seminars such as “Seeing Eye to Eye” and supporting the government’s programmes in eliminating avoidable blindness, Rotary in Malaysia’s battle against blindness is calling for eye health check be included in a person’s primary health check programme.
Vision, one of the five senses, is vital to life and should not be taken for granted. Currently, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the world among working adults. Therefore, it is advised that those who are above 50 years old undergo eye check at least once a year.