The eye health programme for disadvantaged children in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, launched last January by the IMO Foundation and “La Caixa”’s social projects programme, surpassed its goal of examining 400 children, after the third and final round of eye examinations took place last week. During these latest check-ups, carried out on 5, 7 and 8 November at Lestonnac School in Badalona, the paediatric ophthalmology and optometry team of the Ocular Microsurgery Institute (IMO) in Barcelona performed 185 tests on pupils between the ages of 3 and 7, 24 of whom had previously been examined within the programme and were having a follow-up examination.
Hyperopia, astigmatism, myopia and amblyopia, or lazy eye, were the most common disorders detected in the children
Of the other 161 children, who were undergoing their first check-ups, 29 (18%) were diagnosed with one or more previously undetected eye conditions and 20 were prescribed with glasses, which will be provided free of charge in the coming weeks. As in previous rounds of examinations, refractive errors, with 14 diagnoses (6 hyperopia, 6 astigmatism and 2 myopia), in some cases, a combination of two of them in the same patient, were the most common disorder, followed by amblyopia, or lazy eye, detected in 9 children.
It is important to treat children with amblyopia, or lazy eye, before the age of 8, so that it does not become chronic
Most cases of amblyopia, or lazy eye, are a consequence of an untreated refractive error affecting only one eye or one eye more than the other. As a result, the eye with worse vision begins to stop working, because the brain only selects information provided by the eye with most refractive power. “If this defect is not treated before the age of 8, it becomes chronic, as visual development occurs during childhood and any underdeveloped vision in this period cannot be recovered in adulthood,” according to Dr Ana Wert, a paediatric ophthalmology specialist at IMO.
More than 22% of the children examined for the first time had a previously undetected disorder
After this last round, the annual programme of check-ups on disadvantaged childhood concluded with a total of 478 eye examinations – 432 first examinations and 46 follow-ups –, 67 glasses prescribed free of charge and 97 diagnoses, which means that over 22% of the children examined for the first time had a previously undetected disorder, a figure that is more than double the average of 10% observed by IMO Foundation when carrying out tests at the Barcelona Children’s Festival. This considerable difference highlights the need to promote eye health among disadvantaged groups, which, in addition to a lack of resources, have, in many cases, less awareness of the importance of prevention and taking care of health, including eye health, especially among children.
The eye examinations performed during this first year took place in schools in Badalona, thanks to the collaboration of Consorci Badalona Sud, which was responsible for managing the programme and selecting schools in the area in which the percentage of pupils at risk of social exclusion is particularly high.
A collaboration agreement between IMO Foundation and La Caixa’s social projects programme
he project, part of the CaixaProinfancia scheme within La Caixa’s social projects programme, is aimed at children with particular social vulnerability and encourages and supports policies to improve fairness, social cohesion and equal opportunities for children and their families. The financial resources necessary to carry out the project are provided by La Caixa’s social projects programme.
For its part, IMO Foundation, whose primary aim is to promote research, education and prevention of eye disorders, especially in risk groups, is responsible for providing the necessary human and material resources and carrying out the medical follow-up of the children with disorders. For IMO Foundation, early detection and appropriate treatment of typical childhood disorders is essential to improving prognosis and the academic performance of children, as well as ensuring a good basis for eye health in adulthood.
The project also enables these children to be monitored and to receive new glasses, if their prescription changes in the medium term, since IMO’s experience shows that the glasses prescription of children with refractive errors can fluctuate in over 30% of cases. The aim, therefore, is to extend the programme beyond this first year and continue next year.
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