After completing the normal health camps across the school, our next objective was to drive the eye checkup. We had started eye camps quite early in Jan 2013, when two ophthalmologists and trained optometrists visited with us. Since the focus was only on 40 kids and around 60 adults, we were able to manage it well. However, when we started all school camps, we tried to club eye checkup with the regular health camp. We faced two challenges. It was impossible to even conduct basic optometry of 200 odd kids in a day, wherein we had around 500 plus kids. Many a times, it was not clear whether the kids are not able to see or they cant read. They were not used to the language used by the Mumbai based opticians. We had to devise another mechanism.
To address the first problem of handling too many kids in a day, we decided to decentralize the initial screening. We delivered simple eye charts with devnagari Alphabets and trained the teachers. They were asked to hang the chart at comfortable height, make the kid stand 20 feet away from the chart, read the chart with one eye at a time and note down the lines, which the kid was able to read. Teachers are just supposed to record the lines, which kids were able to comfortably read. We made a benchmark that if the kid is able to read 6th or 7th line from the chart, then the he/she does not require further screening. Anything below 6th line was considered as a suspect case. Since kids were comfortable with their respective teachers, they were able to respond well and teachers had enough time in hand to carry out the tests. Based on these tests, we could narrow down the suspect kids from 600 to 25 to 30 or at times more.
All these kids are then taken to Vikramgadh, wherein we have a trained optician, who has Autorefrator, which gives the first cut numbers for the kids and covers even the astigmatism. Kids have to take the formal test to get the exact number for their glasses. Initially, we used to 25 to 30% false suspects. In other words, quite a few kids were able to read properly but became suspect in the initial screening. Over a period of time, even teachers gained enough expertise and the false suspect percentage has gone down to less than 10%.Teachers collect the glasses within a week. The prescriptions are well maintained and used for the references in future.
Most of the kids have numbers between -.25 to -1. However, Kaspada and Talyachapada are the two areas, wherein quite a few kids have numbers higher than -3 or so. We have not figured out the reason so far. As a matter of fact, we found a kid with the rare nystagmus disease, wherein his eyes have constant involuntary movements. His brother has slight squint and very heavy myopia.
We get the kids with serious diseases to Thane, wherein an ophthalmologist, specialized in child care, further examines the kids and recommends the course of action. It is not a very easy process since the kids have to travel all the way from Vikramgadh to Thane by State Transport bus, which takes somewhere between 3 to 3.5 hours. We have been able to get quite encouraging results so far.
While we have taken enough effort to address the challenges, the need of the presence of qualified ophthalmologist is very much there.