Vision Screening of Learners (School Children) by Teachers in Kafue District in Zambia as a Strategy to Address the Challenges of Childhood Blindness
Background: Early detection and treatment of eye diseases in children is critical in combating childhood blindness. Innovative community-based strategies such as training of teachers in vision screening need to be developed for effective utilisation of the available human resources as well as to counter the challenges of inequitable distribution of trained eye health human resources as well as the limited access of quality eye health care services to the majority of our population.
Aim: To evaluate the effectiveness of using teachers as the first level of vision screeners.
Materials and Methods: Teacher training programmes were conducted for schoolteachers to educate them about childhood eye diseases and the significance of their early detection. The teachers trained for the school vision screening were from all government, private and community schools located in Kafue District. The teachers then conducted vision screening of learners in their schools. Subsequently, the mobile eye health teams visited the schools for the re-evaluation of learners identified with poor vision. All learners identified with refractive errors had refraction performed on them and spectacles prescribed. The mobile eye health teams referred learners requiring a further ophthalmic evaluation to the University Teaching Hospitals – Eye Hospital which was the base hospital for the programme. The assessment included calculation of true positives, false positives, true negatives and false negatives.
Results: One hundred and fifty-four (154) teachers from 73 primary and secondary schools underwent training in vision screening. The teachers screened 18,713 learners and reported eye diseases in 2,818 (15.1%) children. However, the mobile eye health teams examined 5,958 learners who included 2,818 referrals from teachers and 3,140 rescreened learners. The mobile eye health teams confirmed eye problems in 2,818 learners screened by the teachers and further diagnosed more eye problems in 999 learners giving a total of 3,817 learners with eye problems. Thus, the teachers were able to correctly identify eye problems (true positives) in 100.0% (2,818/2,818) of learners. The teachers could not identify eye problems in 999 learners giving false negatives were 26.2% (999/3,817).
Conclusion: Considering the high true positive value and the comprehensive coverage provided by the survey, vision screening in schools by teachers is an effective method of identifying learners with eye problems and poor vision early. This strategy could be valuable in reducing the workload of the eye health care staff.
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