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Published: 14.06.2022
Cécile Dubois Communication
OCULARIS postgraduate programmes feature 20% theoritical on-line contents, and 80% practical training sessions, tailored to local needs and available material.

OCULARIS was founded in 2010 by Dr Joan Prat and his ophthalmology team at the San Juan de Dios of Barcelona (HSJD) Paediatric Hospital to train visual health professionals in developing countries.

Rather than simply providing emergency assistance, we take a cooperative approach to development, empowering health professionals by creating official courses in collaboration with African Universities. The medium-term objective is to enable university teachers to train their students by themselves, without having to reach out for external support.

OCULARIS operates within the framework of Public Universities and the institutional structures of the African countries where we operate: NORTH Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), University of Barcelona (UB), Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD, Senegal), Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM, Mozambique) and  Lurio University (UNILURIO, Mozambique).

Pediatric work:

Many African countries lack Pediatric Optometrists and Ophthalmologists. In Senegal, people aged 14-years and under make-up 41% of the total population and in Mozambique this is 44%. They need such specialists.

Pediatric Specialization is not just applying adult medicine to children as that is a stage of life marked by growth and development. Therefore, the lack of trained human resources and specific tools has a very negative impact on children’s health and potential.

The lack of correct prescription glasses is the first cause of visual deficit in the world. Uncorrected prescription defects in children under 12 years of age can cause amblyopia (lazy eye) for life.

Refractive disorders (glasses) and strabismus, sometimes associated, are the childhood eye diseases that most often cause visual impairment. Although their treatment is generally glasses, we find that access to them can be complicated and, often, impossible.

Ophthalmologists that attend to children must acquire the following abilities:

– Measuring visual acuity (VA) in children which allows for the detection of most visual defects. The ophthalmologist needs to know what tests to do and how to carry them out.

– Calculating the prescription of glasses requires mastering the technique of retinoscopy (sciascopy).

– Recognize and treat amblyopia, which is the decrease in the visual capacity of one or both eyes due to lack of correct use during the visual learning period (up to 8-9 years of age).

– Dealing with strabismus since it is the first cause of surgical eye disease in children.

To tackle, this shortage of trained professionals OCULARIS created the very first Pediatric Ophthalmology and Optometry postgraduate University programmes of Sub-Saharan Africa.

University postgraduate in paediatric ophthalmology

This was tailor-made for the Faculty of Medicine at the Cheikh Anta Diop University (FMPOS-UCAD, Dakar). We started in 2014.

PHASE 1 (2014 to 2018) To have 8 of their staff trained (4 men and 4 women), with 4 of them given a scholarship to the Pediatric Hospital at San Juan de Dios in Barcelona (HSJD) to further improve their training. Customised implementation of the eSalud platform to train them electronically. To bolster the equipment in operating rooms and consultations.

PHASE 2 (2019 to 2023) To train the students and assist the university staff, and to continue improving the equipment in operating rooms and consultations. This phase consists of supporting University teachers in the training of 8 to 10 students every year (coming not only from Senegal, but also surrounding countries such as Mali, Benin, or Burkina Faso), until they acquire sufficient knowledge and practice to be fully autonomous.

Postgraduate in pediatric optometry

The first University Postgraduate in this specialty was tailor-made for the Faculty of Health Sciences (FCS–UNILURIO, Nampula), and endorsed by the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC, Barcelona).

PHASE 1 (2019) Prospecting and signing a collaboration agreement.

PHASE 2 (2020 to 2025) Edition 0 (2020-2021): Formalization of the Postgraduate’s, to train 6 future staff (3 men and 3 women). Customised implementation of the eSalud platform to train them remotely for the theoretical contents (about 20% of total contents). Improvement of the equipment in consultations.

Up to the 5th Edition (2025): Training of 10 new students per year and assistance for the trained university teachers from the previous phase. We expect the University Postgraduate teaching team to reach full autonomy by the end of the 5th edition.

We at Ocularis remain committed to our mission of empowering health professionals.

As part of Focus on Child Eye Health, a piece by Ocularis. Focus on Child Eye Health engages some of the world’s best and brightest thought leaders throughout the year to share knowledge, inspire action, discuss ideas and push Child Eye Health to the forefront of pressing development issues. It is supported by CooperVision.