Vision Centers

Limited number of optometrists has challenged the country from providing comprehensive eye care services, especially for those living with uncorrected refractive error. This has been a decent reason for Orbis and our partners in Vietnam made their remarkable investment to fill in the gap.

Why we concern

Updated statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that the leading cause of vision impairment is uncorrected refractive error, among some others. WHO likewise reaffirmed that "approximately 80% of vision impairment globally is considered avoidable. There are effective interventions available to prevent and treat eye diseases. For example, uncorrected refractive error can be corrected with glasses while cataract surgery can restore vision”.

In Vietnam, a great demand of refraction services has been unmet due to thelack of qualified optometrists while there is an identifiable gap in provision of eye care services for the rapidly increasing population. Optometry services such as eye examinations, including refraction, and the supply of prescription glasses are not readily available to the people. The burgeoning national eye health need has determined provision of care to be mainly focused on treating eye diseases and conditions, and little to no focus on the high levels of uncorrected refractive error – which is the need for eyeglasses.

What concerns us more are what we should have in minds, as follows:

Adults:

  • Vietnam has a population of over 96 million and uncorrected refractive error (mostly need for glasses) is one of the leading causes of vision impairment in Vietnam. For those people aged 50 years and above the prevalence of vision impairment is greater than 11.4%
  • This equates to more than 10 million people in Vietnam are in need of eye care services

Children:

  • Leading cause of childhood blindness in Vietnam is uncorrected refractive error (need for glasses)
  • More than 20 % of children are affected by refractive error
  • The majority of children are currently left untreated with some 70% no having the glasses they need
  • Uncorrected refractive error (need for glasses), particularly in children, is a priority area for the National Steering Committee for the Prevention of Blindness in Vietnam

And a Vision Centre model was expected to be the solution to most of the aforementioned issues, and it has been so with efforts by Orbis and local partners.

At school, Hoa’s classmates mocked the appearance of her eyes, calling her “squinter”. Her schoolwork suffered because she couldn’t see clearly. See how Orbis helped to make Hoa’s magic wish come true.

Hoa's One Wish

How we approach

Orbis, in great partnership with local hospitals in the provinces of Binh Dinh, Thua Thien – Hue, Can Tho and Ca Mau commenced comprehensive eye care programs, of which the vision center has been a key component so that the locals are enabled to enjoy quality, affordable and comprehensive eye care, especially refraction services for local children. The vision centers are not just providing primary eye care but also covering a wide ranges of interventions which have been somehow much missing in the country, such as:

  • eye examinations;
  • supplying affordable spectacles;
  • detection of eye diseases;
  • treatment of minor eye problems;
  • referrals;
  • health education programs;
  • outreach clinics;
  • screening programs.

Together with partner hospitals, Orbis provided its full support to the model by:

All of the vision centers have been established in public hospitals, so as to help ensure favorable conditions for its development with:

  • RESOURCES: Good mobilization of needed resources for the Vision Centers: infrastructure, facilities, human resources
  • LEGAL FRAMEWORK: Obtained legal framework: operation licenses
  • COLLABORATION: Good collaboration with relevant bodies and organizations: Education, health, social mass organizations, among many others

Some 70% of children with refractive error are in need of a pair of glasses, and the vision centers are there for them.

What we have done

  • 18 Vision Centers were established at public hospitals in the provinces of Binh Dinh, Thua Thien – Hue, Can Tho and Ca Mau. All obtained operation licenses;
  • A great deal of personnel were trained and allocated to work at the Vision Centers, including refractionists, spectacle technicians, ophthalmologists (trained in refraction), and other Vision Centers staffs;
  • More than half of millions of school children had vision screening, of who thousands were provided with refraction services and eye glasses.

What will we do

In a bid to further replicate the model in the country and making itself well integrated into the current health care system, Orbis shall:

  • Review performance and status of the ongoing Vision Centers for best practices and lessons learnt;
  • Advocate for practice licenses of Vision Centers so that it can be developed as a “business” or “social business”. This will help ensure the model sustainability;
  • Integrate the model into Orbis’ future eye health programs in the country;
  • Seek additional resources such as funding and new partners for the model further continued development.