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An eye for the eye: caring for the community’s eye

Eye health is one of the issues that has been identified by the Segamat community as a health priority. Two eye-related health care projects were successfully carried out. The first project was a partnership with a local higher education institution, local NGOs and the Orang Asli community. Screening for visual acuity was undertaken by optometry students from SeGi University in 6 villages in Bekok, Johor.  Screening covered colour blindness, glaucoma, cataract and vision defects. Sixty three people were screened over 2 days; 44 were identified to have visual problems. Corrective lenses were provided free of charge by Hoya Lenses and the Association of Malaysian Optometrists.

The second project was paediatric eye screening in pre-school children. Paediatric eye screening occurs routinely in the post-natal period and again in older children once they start primary school.  Children in the 24 to 64 months age range, however, are not routinely screened.  Problems detected in this critical period can be corrected and a child's quality of life can be improved dramatically as they enter the school years.

Screening was led by Dr Kumar Thavaratnam from the Paediatric Ophthalmology team at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL – the National General Hospital). The project was coordinated by Pn Ruhaida Bachok, the SEACO field operations manager and her Team. The Head of Paediatrics at the Segamat District Hospital, Dr Intan, and her team provided support for the children who were referred for specialist treatment.

This preliminary findings of this screening showed:

  • Amblyopia in 6.9% of the participating children;
  • 22.3% of the children required ophthalmologic intervention
  • 12.7% of the parents were aware that their child had an ocular problem;
  • 46.1% the children had symptoms suggestive of an ocular condition
  • 94.1% of the children have never had an ophthalmological assessment prior to this study.The findings from this preliminary feasibility study led to the commissioning of a larger study by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) to inform national policy on paediatric eye screening. A larger study is scheduled to begin in Segamat in April and nationally later in the year.