Since 2013, the Eye Care Foundation (ECF) has been focused on eye health for schoolchildren aged 10-15 years old in Ca Mau, the furthest southern province in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Every year, an average of more than 20,000 schoolchildren have their eyes checked. In some districts, schools have organized the screenings using their own budget and with little financial support from the Eye Care Foundation (ECF). So, what makes the school eye health programme in Ca Mau a success?
The school eye health services are being delivered at the district level. We have facilitated the health sector with the tools to coordinate health education and to promote the regular eye health check, which will subsequently save financial and human resources. This coordination has made substantial progress, and now each sector understands its roles and responsibilities and therefore is better committed to the programme.
ECF has created a sustainable eye care workforce by providing short-term and long-term training on refraction and glass dispensing to the existing health care staff at the district level. Annual follow-up and quality checks on their work are being conducted to ensure the development of their technical skills and knowledge. The communication skills of the district eye care workforce have been improved as well. ECF has managed to establish a group of district staff who conduct two-way communication that involves more listening and interacting with children, teachers, and parents.
Considering that at the district level, especially in remote areas, the eye care infrastructure is very limited, ECF established a vision center where families can bring their kids for an eye check. The accessible and affordable vision center not only serves the children under the school eye health programme but also other people living in the district. It has helped many families, considering that many people are unemployed under the challenges of Covid-19 access care. There is no more need to spend extra money to travel 70 kilometers to get an eye check and a pair of glasses.
Another activity that goes along with the services is awareness-raising. Eye Care Festival, a unique awareness-raising activity designed for school children, was developed to educate children by letting them play interactive and entertaining games. Children can learn the importance of having good eyesight and have fun at the same time. Parents and teachers also get consultations on some child eye diseases that might happen at this age, so they know what to do and where to go for further check-up.
Based on the success of Ca Mau province, ECF is using this model to apply in other provinces of the Mekong Delta to make that quality eye care services are available at the community level.
Luong Thi Quynh Lan (Country Representative Vietnam) [email protected]