School eye health the answer to childhood blindness – bulletin of who study

Geneva, Switzerland, 5 October 2018: A study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that while school eye health programs can reduce vision impairment in children in low- and middle-income countries, programs need policy-based support to be sustainable and effective.

The systematic review and qualitative analysis of eye care interventions in the education sector, reveals that the integration of eye health strategies, within the national school health policy, is the primary facilitator for increasing availability of eye care to children. It also finds that success is dependent on multidisciplinary support from ministries of health and education.

Conducted by researchers at Brien Holden Vision Institute, and supported by the World Bank Group and Global Partnership for Education, the study identifies a key barrier for accessing eye care is the poor availability of systems (programs, training, referrals), infrastructure and human resources. Other barriers found include misconceptions around causes and treatment of eye disease and vision impairment, poor literacy, and the cost of children’s spectacles.

Lead author, Dr Anthea Burnett, says the research is vital for developing a sound knowledge base around the barriers and facilitators for school eye health. “This was the first study to comprehensively assess the effectiveness of interventions in the countries where the majority of childhood blindness occurs,” she says.

“There are many school-based programs being implemented globally – this research provides evidence on ways to make those programs more effective and sustainable.”

The study ‘Interventions to improve school-based eye-care services in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review’ is an open-access article. To read click here.

It is part of a special issue of the Bulletin of WHO – ‘The future of eye care in a changing world‘. To read the issue click here.

1.    Burnett AM, Yashadhana A, Lee L, Serova N, Brain D & Naidoo K. Interventions to improve school-based eye-care services in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review. Bull World Health Organ 2018;96:682–694D; doi:

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