The key to sustainable eye care in any global region is high-quality education. In the past 20 years, the Eye Care Foundation has been actively supporting the bachelor of optometry course in the Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine in Ho Chi Minh City (VN).
In August 2019, in frames of the project “Sight for children and people aged over 50 in the Mekong Delta”, developed in collaboration with Hellen Keller International and Orbis International and funded by the Standard Chartered Bank, the Eye Care Foundation supported a vision screening for the elderly in Dam Doi District (VN). The first goal of the event was to provide direct eye care to the locals. The second, but the not less important purpose was to facilitate the opportunity to Pham Ngoc Thach optometry students to improve their knowledge and skills by performing actual eye tests.
Together, 17 students and their two lecturers, 7 professional refractionists from Ca Mau province and other staff members from the Dam Doi Hospital and Health Center conducted a successful screening. In only two days, 550 elderly people from 5 communes had their eyes tested. More than 350 people received subsidised glasses, and about 160 patients were identified with cataract or other eye diseases.
The presence of trainees and established professionals together at the screening had many benefits. The optometry students were able to master their skills by watching the eye specialists in practice and by working on real cases. They learnt from experience how to manage a big flow of patients in a short time and how to communicate with the elderly who often require more personal attention.
Another important outcome of a joined screening was the formation of the network of refractionists and optometrists in the region. By working together, the future generations of eye care professionals in Vietnam will be able to sustain the quality of eye care services in their country and will be able to work independently of external support.
After two days of screening, the students were very enthusiastic about this activity. They were happy that they managed to stay focused and help as many people as possible.
The two-year project “Sight for children and people aged over 50 in the Mekong Delta” is led by a consortium consisting of Hellen Keller International, Orbis International, and the Eye Care Foundation. The goal of the initiative is to identify and diagnose early stages of blindness and visual impairment among children and people over 50 in Can Tho City and Ca Mau province of the Mekong Delta and to make the quality eye-care services accessible and affordable.