Eye Health Heroes Speak Up: Sangmi Lee

Project Manager Quang Tri
Organisation: Project BOM

Sang Mi LeeSince 2018, I have been working with Project BOM. I work in Vietnam. We work towards preventing blindness through eye screenings to detect fundus diseases in patients by distribution of EYELIKE. This is a digital ophthalmoscope. In 2019, I had the honor of becoming an Eye Health Hero.

At IAPB’s Council of Members last year, I met many great eye health experts and leaders from all across the globe, and was left feeling inspired by them. After the meeting, I thought I am just at the starting line of my journey in eye health. While receiving the award, I felt both honored and nervous, and resolved to work towards becoming a ‘real Eye Health Hero’.

Since becoming an Eye Health Hero, Project BOM and I have carried forward with our work. We have trained general doctors and health workers, on how to use EYELIKE devices; which we distributed to community health centers.. Also, I have been monitoring the eye screenings done in community health centers and encouraging them to do so more regularly. I reckon our approach is effective, because to provide eye screenings in health center means reaching more people and those who have difficulty in accessing health facilities. We have been finding and transferring new patients who have Diabetic Retinopathy, are Glaucoma suspect, and have Retina Pigmentosa etc. as well. All of these are people who didn’t know they had an issue. Through this we could systematize the community eye health programme in a way which is active case finding. Moreover, we had surveyed around 1350 persons aged over 50 for analyzing health behavior for eye health. Through the results of the survey, I hope we can plan effective activities that can better access of the community improving their eye health.

Project BOM and I had an opportunity to work for primary students at A Vao school and their satellite schools in A Vao commune, Quang Tri. The area is not only one of the poorest areas in Vietnam, but also home to a minority group. What is was worse here is that, the satellite schools are located where there is low accessibility to health facilities and low understanding about necessity of using glasses. We conducted eye screenings in the schools and distributed glasses to low vision students; it was their first experience of them. Through this, we could perform community-based approach to marginalized people and get positive results.

Vietnam was also affected due to COVID-19. We had to stop all our activities in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Fortunately,, Vietnam was able to flatten the curve. Compared to other countries, Vietnam is in a far better situation. The Vietnamese government has provided guidelines for carrying out activities. We are carrying out our work carefully under the guidelines:; 1) when coming together there should be less than 100 persons, 2) 1 team which is less than 5 persons can visit households, 3) keeping 2m distance, 4) providing facial mask and checking body temperature.

While working, I have faced difficulties in the past, however, I could find ways to overcome the situation. However, COVID-19 is a different situation. But I do believe we can get over this situation.