In the year 2015, all United Nations (UN) member states adopted seventeen sustainable development goals to be achieved by 2030. One of it being universal health coverage. In the recent world report on Vision, WHO called for the routine measurement of effective coverage of refractive error to be 40% and effective coverage of cataract to be 30%. In line with UN declaration, Optometry council of India (OCI) through comprehensive eye examination aims to cover refractive error correction and identification of eye ailments for unreached/affording sector of India. Prevalence of refractive error among children was found to be 2.7% and 6.2% in the rural and urban population of India. Recent evidence reports prevalence of refractive error among the public schools in South India to be 6.57%.
There is a difference in the prevalence of Myopia between the school children in the public and the private schools. There are also predictions of increase in Myopia among Urban children in the next few decades. The school eye health guidelines from the International agencies for prevention of blindness (IAPB) has recommended a comprehensive approach for school eye health including Eye health promotion and assessment of compliances. So it is essential to also consider the impact of COVID on the prevalence of Refractive errors. Increased use of Gadgets for online education and restricted outdoor activities could influence the prevalence of refractive errors. Outdoor activities are known to reduce the progression of Myopia. Keeping all these aspects in mind OCI with ZEISS Aloka vision programme has partnered with Optometry Institutions across the country to provide a comprehensive School eye health program including an annual eye examination for children aged 5 – 17 years within 2 years.
Government school screening project is called “VISION FOA A CAUSE” project. REACH protocol developed by ORBIS international is followed as screening protocol for this project. Through this project, OCI aims to detect ocular conditions through a comprehensive eye examination performed by optometrists. This will also help in determining the incidence of refractive error among government school going children and the incidence of other ocular anomalies. The study is also looking into reasons for non-compliance in using spectacles as a mode of correction for refractive error. An understanding of the reasons will help in formulating strategies to increase compliance in spectacle usage and thereby improving the ocular health. Annual eye examination for children is also part of the study protocol. This step will increase the awareness of eye examination and repeat examinations at regular/advised intervals.
OCI proudly declares that twenty-two Optometry institutes have partnered for this study to screen government school children. Students of these institutes, who are also the future of eyecare in India, are receiving hands on training in paediatric eyecare under faculty supervision. OCI with ZEISS Aloka and partner optometry institutes will be able to inculcate a model of comprehensive eyecare practice in young budding optometrist and provide its contribution in the school eye health program.