“In 2014, Sight For All equipped the new Paediatric Ophthalmology Unit at NOC in Vientiane with diagnostic equipment and surgical instruments, vital to combat childhood blindness in Laos.”
MAKING AN IMPACT IN LAOS
Lao Childhood Refraction Error Study
Sight For All’s research team is embarking on a study of refractive error and childhood blindness amongst school children in Lao PDR.
The study has two aims:
- to better understand the prevalence of refractive error and provide spectacle correction as needed;
- to better understand the causes of childhood blindness in Laos to allow for Sight For All to continue to implement evidence based prevention and treatment programmes.
The Lao Childhood Refraction Error Study is being coordinated by Sigh For All’s Research Officer, Dr Thomas Rogerson through a Lions Club International grant.
The study aims to survey a series of 3600 school children in a rural district of Laos in Vientiane Province and secondly a study of causes of childhood blindness amongst children at a school for the blind in Laos.
The survey of refractive error will document the changing prevalence of refractive error amongst these school children who have previously been reported to have the lowest ever recorded prevalence of shortsightedness (“myopia”). This is significant because there is a dramatic rise in the prevalence of myopia amongst South-East Asia where the percentage of 20year olds affected has risen from 18% in 1950 to over 80% today. We suspect that as this population has become increasingly urbanised and the children have become more exposed to “near-work” (eg.reading books) they will have become more myopic.
The survey will also aim to better understand the driving causes of myopia and contribute an important data point in determining the interplay between genetic and environmental causes of this on a global scale.
The study of children attending schools for the blind will provide an updated overview of the causes of blindness in Laos and allow Sight For All to develop evidence-based strategies to address these in-country.
Both of these studies are funded to provide spectacles and low vision aids to any children who might need them and we will also be able to leverage Sight For All’s Paediatric Ophthalmology Team in-country to refer any children who may need surgery.
Sight For All appreciates the support of the Lions International Foundation and OneSight in making this study possible.
Lao Childhood Blindness Study 2013
Sight For All conducted a study of the causes of childhood visual impairment and blindness in July 2013. Sight For All’s Australian team worked with their Laotian colleagues from National Ophthalmic Centre (NOC) to collect data from schoolchildren at Lao’s School for the Blind in Vientiane. A high rate of corneal blindness was discovered, with measles the most common overall cause of blindness. The information supports Sight For All’s efforts to establish the country’s first paediatric eye unit.
The team also took genetic samples from many of the children in an attempt to understand the genetic basis of their eye diseases and hopefully one day eliminate unavoidable childhood blindness. It was the first ophthalmic genetic study ever undertaken in Lao.
Low vision spectacles and aids were also prescribed to many of the visually impaired children to allow them to read better and thereby enhance their education at the school.
A big thank you to the hard-working team that included Drs Khamphoua and Sonchai (Laotian ophthalmologists), Drs Hughie Tsang and James Muecke (Australian ophthalmologists) and Mr Andy Griffiths (Australian optometrist).
Cataract Surgery Outcomes 2011
Medical student Melissa Shields has completed an intensive study in Northern Lao collecting vital data on cataract surgery outcomes from a number of regional eye centres supported by Sight For All.
Refractive Error Study in School Children 2009
Sight For All conducted a study of schoolchildren in Laos in Oct-Nov 2009. The primary aim of the study was to investigate the profile of refractive errors and binocular vision anomalies in children attending primary schools in Vientiane Province and to determine the cause of any visual impairment. Nearly 4000 children were examined in the month. The Lions Club “Recycle for Sight” program donated glasses for needy students. Referrals for surgery were given to a small number of children. The Australian team were challenged with learning the local language in order to communicate with students from numerous ethnic groups. It was difficult to reach some schools due to the geography of the country and poorly developed, unsealed roads. Many of the schools had no electricity and the team found themselves working amongst roaming chickens, cows, geese and pigs! The study revealed a lack of major refractive error and binocular vision anomalies in the children tested.
Many thanks to the whole team who worked hard under tough conditions – Dr Deepa Taranath (Australian ophthalmologist), Dr Sipeth (Lao ophthalmologist), and Ms Theresa Jnguyenpham, Ms Aimee Kong, Mr Kevin Rooney and Ms Lenny Rosli (Austraian optometrists), Ms Robyn Wallace (Australian orthoptist), and Chantilly (Lao nurse).
In-Country Teaching Workshops
Sight For All conducted sub-specialty workshops in paediatric ophthalmology and vitreo-reinal surgery at National Ophthalmology Centre (NOC) in 2010.
Workshops to improve the clinical diagnostic techniques of the trainee ophthalmologists were held at NOC in October 2010, October 2011, June 2012 and June 2013.
Sight For All undertook intensive in-country workshops in vitreo-retinal surgery (Dr Kamkhoune), glaucoma (Dr Khamphoua) and oculoplastic surgery (Dr Siphett) through 2011-12.
Sight For All completed a 12-month fellowship training in glaucoma for Dr Khamphoua at NOC in September 2014.
Dr Phayvanh completed a Fellowship in paediatric ophthalmology.
Drs Siphett and Phoumpanya completed a Fellowship in ophthalmic plastic surgery.
Dr Khamkoune undertook a Fellowship in medical and surgical management of diseases of the retina.
Sight For All trained ophthalmologists from Luang Prabang, Champasak and Savannakhet Eye Centres in the medical management of diabetic retinopathy.
Sight For All provided diagnostic and surgical equipment to NOC, Lao’s national teaching centre in Vientiane.
Paediatric Ophthalmology Unit
In 2014, Sight For All equipped the new Paediatric Ophthalmology Unit at NOC in Vientiane with diagnostic equipment and surgical instruments, vital to combat childhood blindness in Laos. Dr Phayvanh will be working in this Unit throughout her training and following this time.
The equipment will allow Dr Phayvanh to treat children who visit the hospital with the best possible ‘tools’ and visual outcomes.
A big thank you to Novartis XOVA, the Australian Embassy in Vientiane, The Lang Foundation and Wonderwork, who are funding this initiative, the first in the country.
Sight For All has equipped NOC’s Glaucoma Unit with a Visual Field Analyser and an OCT to enhance the diagnosis of glaucoma, and a new Ellex SLT laser to increase NOC’s capacity to manage this disease, the leading cause of preventable blindness in Laos.
Sight For All has equipped NOC’s Oculoplastics Unit with a full range of oculoplastics, orbital and lacrimal surgical instruments to enhance our colleagues’ ability to treat diseases of the eyelids, orbits and lacrimal system.
Sight For All has equipped NOC’s Retinal Unit with an OCT to enhance the diagnosis of diseases of the retina, in particular diabetic retinopathy, which is a rapidly growing cause of blindness in Laos.
Sight For All has also donated an argon laser with viewing tube to allow medical management of retinopathy from all causes.
Provincial Eye Centre support
Sight For All donated biometry equipment to Luang Prabang and Sayaboury Eye Centres in 2010, and to Pakse, Salavan and Sekong Eye Centres in 2011.
The aim of this support is to improve the quality and quantity of cataract surgeries being performed by the local ophthalmologists in provincial areas of Laos.
Sight For All fully equipped the new Bolikhamxay Eye Centre in 2012, including slit lamp, operating microscope, A-scan and keratometer.
Sight For All then donated a new Ellex retinal laser to Luang Prabang Eye Centre in 2013 and to Champasak and Savannakhet Eye Centres in 2015, to help tackle the increasing level of retinal blindness.
Vientiane School for the Blind
Sight For All and The Royal Society for the Blind (RSB, SA branch) have provided support to the Vientiane School for the Blind.