NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 14 – The Ministry of Health has rolled out a smartphone-based application that helps to identify children with Refractive errors in Schools.
Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said the PEEK-Portable Eye Examination Kit will be used by teachers in learning institutions to screen for eye diseases and identify those with problems.
“The teachers once trained are able to refer the children identified for further examination by an eye health worker,” Aman said Thursday when Kenya joined the world in the commemoration of the World Sight Day.
Aman said that shortsightedness and long-sightedness eye conditions are usually managed with spectacles and frequently affect school-going children.
He added that failure to address them hampers quality schooling and learning amongst school-going children.
The Health CAS pointed out that about 7.5 million persons in Kenya have eye diseases and conditions, which require eye care adding that it was unfortunate that only about 20% are able to access eye care services.
He noted that among the 250,000 persons who are blind in Kenya, about half of the cases are as a result of age-related cataracts which is treatable and curable, restoring sight in over 90% of the cases.
Statistics show that globally, about one billion people have vision-impairing conditions that could be addressed to reverse or prevent vision impairment, but have not been addressed yet.
Aman further stated that the spread of non-communicable diseases are also exposing the patients to the risk of losing their sight.
“Another emerging epidemic is the complications of the Non-communicable disease like diabetes and hypertension. Of the 475,000 persons with diabetes, about 50,000 have complications of diabetes (diabetic retinopathy) that can claim their sight any moment…. a very sad situation……and one would ask why have they not been identified yet,” said Aman.
He added that other conditions contributing to vision impairment like glaucoma are yet to be understood and proper preventive and treatment measures established.
Aman said that the psychological, social and economic impacts of loss of sight are far reaching and could contribute to social stigmatization adding that if not addressed, the person becomes an economic burden to society.
And iin a bid to address vision impairment and poverty, the World Health Organization has proposed a new strategy known as Integrated People-centered eye care.
“The strategy calls for more emphasis on community engagement, health promotion and disease prevention, in addition to the traditional curative and rehabilitative services. The Strategy is very strong on communities taking eye care as their responsibility, proactively present themselves for checkups, even when they have no symptoms, or when they have common symptoms like itchy eyes,” he said.
He said that the Ministry of Health, the National and County governments in collaboration with other partners have put in place appropriate workforce and infrastructure, to enable the provision of quality eye health services at the county level.
“While we do this, we appreciate that the resources, including workforce are very scarce. Therefore, our call to members of the public is to take the initiative and have their eyes checked regularly so that if they have treatable conditions, they receive treatment early enough as this will give better outcomes, and it is a lot cheaper,” he added.