In late 2005, Sight For All conducted a population-based, cross-sectional ophthalmic survey of the inhabitants of rural villages in central Myanmar. The principal aims of this project were to estimate the prevalence and causes of visual impairment and the prevalence and risk factors of ocular disorders among persons 40 years of age or older in this region. It was a highly successful study, producing the first robust ophthalmic epidemiological data from Myanmar – it demonstrated that the inhabitants of rural Myanmar suffer from a high prevalence of presenting blindness, the highest ever reported. The Meiktila Eye Study has resulted in 16 publications to date, and has been used by the World Health Organization to update visual impairment prevalence estimates in South East Asia. Please click here to read the abstracts from the 16 publications that have arisen from the study.
In early 2007, Sight For All conducted a study of children in all seven schools for the blind in Myanmar. Measles was found to be the main cause of blindness. A high level of avoidable blindness was identified, with many children requiring cataract or glaucoma surgery. Many of the children were supplied with low vision aids to help with their education. Please click here to read the abstract from the publication.
An important outcome of the study was that a young ophthalmologist from Yangon, Dr Than Htun Aung, was selected for a 12-month fellowship in paediatric ophthalmology at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, commenicng in 2009. He returned to Yangon Eye Hospital in 2010 as the first fully-trained paediatric ophthalmologist in his country of nearly 60 million people.
Sight For All conducts annual workshops for trainee ophthalmologists at Yangon Eye Hospital (YEH) to improve their clinical and diagnostic skills prior to their final exams.
Sight For All’s team of ophthalmologists have been conducting sub-specialty workshops at YEH and Mandalay Eye and ENT Hospital (MEENTH) for nearly two decades. In August 2008, a two-week course for paediatric ophthalmology was undertaken at Yangon and Mandalay Eye Hospitals by Dr Deepa Taranath. With no paediatric ophthalmologist in Myanmar, the trip was long overdue and very much appreciated, with a large number of children successfully treated. Dr Jacques Darman held a small incision cataract surgery (SICS) workshop for ophthalmologists at YEH in July 2010 with the aim of enhancing the safety, quality and quantity of cataract surgery in Myanmar. A further SICS workshop was held at MEENTH in 2012.
Dr Fiona Lake’s award-winning “Teaching on the Run” seminar was delivered in August 2008 with the aim of enhancing the teaching skills of the ophthalmologists at the three main teaching hospitals in Myanmar.
Sight For All trained the first three retinal surgeons (Mya Aung, San Myint, San Hlaing Min) and the first two oculoplastics surgeons (Aye Aye Khine, Khine Su) for Myanmar through 12 months hands-on fellowships at Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Dr Than Htun Aung completed 12 months of training in paediatric ophthalmology at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide in February 2010. In the first year after his return there was a ten times increase in the number of paediatric eye surgeries performed at Yangon Eye Hospital, and . In 2014/2015 Dr Aung trained the second paediatric ophthalmologist in Myanmar using the expertise he acquired in Australia. That fellow, Dr Tin Mg Thant has now completed his training with Dr Aung and has returned to Mandalay to run Myanmar’s second Paediatric Eye Unit. This unit was established in October 2015 .
Dr Than Htun Aung and one of his optometric colleagues Thinn Thinn Swe, have recently completed a Low Vision Course coordinated by Sight For All at Royal Society for the Blind and South Australian School for the Visually Impaired in Adelaide. Upon their return to Myanmar in April 2017, our colleagues will help to build low vision services for the visually impaired.
Dr May Ko Ko Thet undertook a 12 months fellowship in glaucoma at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre in January 2014. Thank you to the Australian Government’s “Australian Award Fellowships” scheme for sponsoring this high impact sustainable initiative.
After completion of their fellowships in Australia, all of these fellows returned to Myanmar as leaders in their field, where they now pass their newly acquired skills and knowledge on to their colleagues and are currently training their own fellows for the country.
Sight For All are currently conducting a 12 month hands-on corneal fellowship for Dr Aye Moe Thet at Royal Adelaide Hospital. Dr Thet will return to set up the corneal service and eye bank at MEENTH in late 2017.
Sight For All are currently conducting Myanmar's first in-country fellowship at YEH. Fellows from both YEH and MEENTH are receiving training in neuro-ophthalmology at YEH by a team of Australian specialists over a 2-year period from July.
This project involves the upskilling of nine refractionists from five teaching hospitals in Myanmar to diagnose and treat patients with ophthalmic diseases. The refractionists are spending one week in every month from July 2017 to June 2018 at Yangon Eye Hospital where they are receiving lectures and spending time in the clinic with Sight For All's team of optometry Visionaries.
The teaching curriculum for this project has been developed by Sight For All and Yangon Eye Hospital, with support from the Brien Holden Vision Institute. So far, six of the twelve teaching trips have taken place. With each week of teaching, the project is building the capacity of the five teaching institutions and is ultimately having a profound impact on the country’s eye health.
In the long term, the nine refractionists will go on to train their colleagues at their own teaching hospitals, thereby allowing vital sustainability of the project.
We thank the Australian Government, the people of Australia, Yangon Eye Hospital, our team of Visionaries and our nine refractionists for embracing this project and helping to make it such a success.
Between July 2017 and June 2018, six Sight For All Visionaries are providing education to 25 secondary eye centres (SECs) across Myanmar and are also providing specialised diagnostic equipment needed for the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
In 2007, the Australian Government funded the $1 million dollar Vision Myanmar Program (the Adelaide-based program that was the precursor to Sight For All), enabling the training of doctors and health care workers and the equipping of over 32 secondary eye centres. The program provided the SECs with basic equipment for the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases, in particular cataract, the leading cause of blindness in the world.
The SEC visits in this current project, enable the collection of data about the provision of services at each eye centre and in each region of the country. The SECs are being upgraded with additional devices for the diagnosis and treatment of complex eye diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, including indirect ophthalmoscopes and lenses, gonioscopes, and iCare tonometers that have been donated by ICare Finland. Whilst at each SEC, the Visionaries are also providing training in the use of the equipment and workshops to eye health workers focused on diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. The sessions have been well attended, with some centres having 80 or more health workers along to learn more about these eye conditions. So far, 14 of the 25 SECs have been visited across three Visionary trips, with the remaining 11 SECs to be visited in the first half of 2018.
We thank the Australian Government, the people of Australia, Myanmar Ministry of Health & Sports, our three Visionaries who have travelled so far and the 14 SECs already visited for their involvement with this project.
Sight For All has established Retinal Units at Yangon Eye Hospital and at Mandalay Eye & ENT Hospital.
Sight For All opened Myanmar’s first Paediatric Eye Unit at Yangon Eye Hospital in July 2010, with Dr Than Htun Aung as the Unit’s Director. For the first time, Myanmar’s 20 million children have access to the highest quality diagnostic and therapeutic equipment in the hands of Dr Aung’s exceptional skills.
In October 2015, Sight For All Opened Myanmar's second Paediatric Eye Unit at the Mandalay Ear Ear Nose and Throat Hospital. The establishment of this unit was made possible with support from the Australian Government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In 2013 Sight For All donated a new Ellex SLT laser for the management of patients with chronic glaucoma at Yangon Eye Hospital.
In 2014 Sight For All donated new surgical instruments for the management of patients with diseases of the eyelids, orbit and lacrimal system at Yangon Eye Hospital. Thank you to the Australian Government’s “Direct Aid Program” for sponsoring this initiative.
In 2008, Sight For All commenced its AusAID-funded cataract surgery project in Myanmar. It was a great success with all goals being achieved. A total of eight secondary eye centres were visited, assessed and upgraded during two trips. Slit lamps, operating microscopes, A-scanners, keratometers, cataract surgery instruments, air-conditioners, instrument sterilisers and electricity generators were supplied to needy centres. The senior theatre nurse from Royal Adelaide Hospital trained local nurses at each of the centres with the aim of improving their skill in handling and sterilising microsurgical instruments. Health promotion seminars were conducted for health care workers at selected eye centres with the aim of increasing awareness amongst the population as to the availability of cataract surgery.
A total of 36 Secondary Eye Centers have now been established or upgraded. Several new centres have been established – at Pyapon and Labutta in the Delta area, at East and West Yangon Hospitals, and at Shwe Kyin, Pyin U Lwin, Thandwe, Homealin and Sagaing. The ophthalmologists at these centres are all now performing high quality cataract surgery and improving the daily lives of tens of thousands of patients each year.
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