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New vision project gives 43,000 children eye care access in Vietnam

MEDIA RELEASE

More than 43000 school children from 68 schools will benefit from a new vision project in the province of Ba Ria Vung Tau (BRVT) by providing access to eye examinations and affordable glasses. The Vietnam Australia Vision Support Program (VAVSP) is a component of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Avoidable Blindness Initiative (ABI).

The International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE), the BRTV People's Committee, the BRVT Provincial Eye Centre are collaborating as part of the VAVSP to bring eye care to students at the 43 primary schools, 19 lower secondary schools and six high schools in the districts of Xuyen Moc and Dat Do, while also providing eye care training courses for the 1814 teachers and 68 eye health care workers employed by the schools.

Amanda Davis, Chief Operating Officer of ICEE, is in Vietnam to support the launch of the VAVSP project on Monday 26, March.  “Readymade and prescription glasses while available in the larger cities at fairly reasonable prices, are not available in the rural areas.  Until recently there were almost no formal courses available to train spectacle technicians in Vietnam. So even if a person was able to obtain an accurate prescription, it was very hard for them to have the prescription correctly filled at an optical shop. Using incorrectly prescribed or self selected glasses due to a lack of access to an eye examination may in some cases deter people from using glasses altogether.  This is a terrible outcome which we would like to help change,” said Ms Davis.

Dr Nguyen Viet Giap, Director of the BRVT Provincial Eye Centre, is excited about the VAVSP project and the benefits it will bring to the local communities. “We have nearly one million people in the province and over half live in a rural community. Our Provincial Eye Centre has found, through recent work, that we have a high rate of blindness for people over 50 and that many of our school children are not even aware they have a vision problem. I am very keen for the VAVSP to help our communities get better access to eye care. I am committed to this new programme and give it my full support,” said Dr Giap.

Dr May Ho, ICEE Programme Manager for Vietnam, has been working in the region since 2008 and understands the local needs. “Statistics show that there is a shortage of eye care services in Vietnam. Up to nine million people are affected by the most common eye conditions. Having access to eye care will make a big difference to the underserved communities – children having trouble seeing their schoolwork and the adults having trouble seeing at work, may just need a simple eye examination and a pair of glasses. Access is a very real problem for the urban poor and those living in rural and remote areas,” Dr Ho said.

“The concept for this new project originated from an AusAID proposal four years ago based on much analysis and research in the province of BRVT. The programme aims at increasing long term access of optometry services for the local people. We are very pleased to say ICEE will collaborate with our local partners as part of the VAVSP to establish three vision centres in the BRVT province,” said Dr Ho.

Vietnam has experienced some very welcome changes in optometry and vision care over the last few years. ICEE programmes have targeted making an impact in two areas – professional education of eye care personnel and service delivery of eye care to the people. Key achievements have been an increase of optometry services through improved access to eye care, raising the number of trained eye care professionals and further education of local eye care trainers to enable them to train others.

In 2008, ICEE began working with the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology (VNIO) with the long term aim to assist the development of optometry training in Vietnam.  Two years later the initiative came to fruition with the inauguration of refraction courses for local and provincial medical staff in collaboration with the VNIO, Danang National Technical College of Medicine No 2 and the Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital. Most recently the collaboration led to the establishment of a National Refraction Training Office at the VNIO.

ICEE programmes in Vietnam are supported by Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium, a partnership of nine Australian eye health and vision care organisations, including ICEE, working to eliminate avoidable blindness and uncorrected vision impairment in the Asia-Pacific region.

ENDS

Media Contact

Selina Madeleine, Communications Manager, ICEE, (02) 9385 5282, +61 414071149

Editor’s Notes

International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE pron. “I See”) is a global non-profit, non-governmental organisation. In the last ten years ICEE has delivered sustainable eye care services, education and training programmes in more than 53 countries. ICEE is focused on the elimination of avoidable blindness by developing solutions with communities in need of eye care, thereby improving opportunities in education, employment and quality of life. ICEE is supported by the Brien Holden Vision Institute and Optometry Giving Sight. For more info, visit our website: www.icee.org

The Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium is made up of the following members: CBM Australia; Centre for Eye Research Australia; Foresight Australia; International Centre for Eyecare Education; Royal Australasian College of Surgeons; Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children; The Fred Hollows Foundation; The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and Vision Australia.

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