Retinopathy Of Prematurity

For a long time, Retinopathy of Prematurity has been incurable in Vietnam despite of the bitter fact that accounts for 32% of child blindness. The situation has been changed since Orbis in collaboration with their great partners has managed to find a way which helps stop this “Retinopathy of Prematurity-is-incurable” prejudice.

Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye disease that can happen in premature newborns. It causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, and might lead to blindness if early interventions are not performed.

Why We Concern

Retinopathy of Prematurity is one of the leading causes of infant blindness and child visual impairment worldwide, whilst in Vietnam alone it accounts for 32% of child blindness. Additionally, due to achievements in reducing child mortality and improvements to neonatal care, the number of children at risk of Retinopathy of Prematurity has significantly grown in Vietnam over the last decade.

Annually, around 25,000 premature infants at risk of Retinopathy of Prematurity need to be examined and about 3,000 babies require sight-saving treatments.

At present, only a few doctors have been trained and qualified for Retinopathy of Prematurity management in the country. The fact shows that clinical skills and monitoring on Retinopathy of Prematurity treatments remain a great challenge in Vietnam.

Accordingly, only 8 provinces/cities (out of 63 provinces) have the capacity to provide Retinopathy of Prematurity screening and only 4 are capable of treating the condition. Almost all of the Neonatal Intensive Care Units across the country are insufficient in equipment and skills in therapies which can inhibit progression of Retinopathy of Prematurity in premature infants.

Furthermore, Retinopathy of Prematurity policies or standardized guidelines are not available in the country. Therefore, Retinopathy of Prematurity is not widely recognized as a critical risk to child blindness and premature infants are not always recommended/referred for eye examinations for timely Retinopathy of Prematurity management.

Untreated conditions leading to childhood blindness have critical lifetime consequences.

How We Approach

With efforts from our local partners, we have been pursuing the following approaches so that a model which is accessible and applicable in local contexts would be developed:

  • Establish Pediatric Eye Care Centers at provincial hospitals with well-trained medical team;
  • Promote clinical capacity of hospitals’ staffs in detection and case management for Retinopathy of Prematurity;
  • Establish tertiary level Child Eye-Care Centers to provide comprehensive and quality pediatric ophthalmology services in all regions of Vietnam;
  • Strengthen referral system to ensure no infant at risk of Retinopathy of Prematurity is missed out in project area;
  • Promote public awareness on Retinopathy of Prematurity, at all levels.

What We Have Done

Retinopathy of Prematurity screening and treatment will contribute to the target of 80% of newborn babies undergoing neonatal screening in Vietnam.

In 2001, Orbis started its partnership with the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology in the North; and with the Ho Chi Minh Eye Hospital and Children’s Hospital No.1 in the South of Vietnam to begin Retinopathy of Prematurity screenings in the 2 regions. Treatments was commenced in 2001 and 2004 in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City respectively. Yet most of those who then received training provided by Orbis have not been enable to renew their knowledge and skills.

Focus on Sight: Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)

In 2012, Hue Central Hospital in the central province of Thua Thien – Hue became the third qualified Retinopathy of Prematurity service provider. Recently, Orbis has managed to expand its Retinopathy of Prematurity screening programs in the provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Binh Dinh and Can Tho, raising the total number of provincial-level Retinopathy of Prematurity service providers to 8.

Orbis Vietnam has helped improve facilities and equipment for neonatal care, Retinopathy of Prematurity screening and treatment. In addition, the organization has taken a leading role in advocating for the adoption of nationwide best practices in eye-care services, such as child eye care, a quality assurance system, and an eye screening program for diabetic patients. The organization likewise has vast experience of developing links between eye-care and other health and social sectors.

What We Will Do

Orbis Vietnam is planning to scale-up the Retinopathy of Prematurity management capacity in more localities so that 70% of children at risk of Retinopathy of Prematurity will be screened for early interventions. The aim is to ensure every region in Vietnam has the capacity to screen Retinopathy of Prematurity; and Retinopathy of Prematurity treatments will be available in the municipalities with large populations.

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