Island school students benefit from eye screening via the Lions
Monday, February 8th, 2016
The Lions Zone 59-Belize National Children Eye Screening Program continued this week in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. The program provides free eye screening tests for children between the ages of 3-14 on the various schools on the island. It first started in November of 2015, with the first screenings at Holy Cross Anglican School. On Tuesday, February 2nd and Thursday, February 4th, The Island Academy, Holy Cross Anglican School, Little Angels Pre-School and ABC Pre-School participated in the program. Over 600 students were registered to have their eyes tested and vision needs addressed. On Friday, the team visited the schools in Caye Caulker an additional area assigned to the San Pedro Lions Club. The other area assigned to the Club is the entire Corozal District, which has 11,000 of the 15,000 registered children that need the screening.
According to Chairman of the San Pedro Lions Eye Screening Program, Jan Brown, the program is being welcomed by the different schools they are visiting and the results from the screening have been very good. Brown mentioned that most children screened have passed the test with no signs of eye problems. However, there have been a few children who did not pass the eye test and have been put in the referral list. Brown indicated that these children, get a printed receipt from the eye machine, detailing their problem with their eyes, this receipt will guide the ophthalmologist at the Lions BCVI centre in Belize City as to how to treat the situation when the child is taken by the parents for an appointment. So far the percentage of children on the referral list is below 10%, which is still an issue of concern, as a few of them have astigmatism.
As the program continues, the response from the community has been positive. “The children have been very compliant and very happy. Also the parents have been very grateful about the program, and the schools’ administrators and teachers have been very supportive of the program. So far the results of the tests have been great and we will continue with the screenings until we test all the registered children. It will be a big challenge as just in the Corozal District there are 78 facilities registered, but we have committed to it and we look to complete the task,” said Brown.
Only two eye screening machines were acquired by the Belize Lions Zone 59, and they will be shared by all the Lions clubs in the country to carry on their programs. The progress of the screenings from the San Pedro Lions to cover all of Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and the Corozal District, will depend on the availability of the eye screening machine. The next dates of screenings will depend on when the machine is available for the San Pedro Lions Club.
The screening machine is designed to children aged 3-14; anyone beyond that age is recommended to go to an eye clinic to get a full examination. The machine operates with infrared lights, there is no touching of the child, no eye drops and the camera/machine is set approximately 3 feet and 3 inches away. The child looks into the camera and the machine takes around 10 to 20 seconds to make an eye measurement of the pupils, and after the testing is done it quickly gives the result which can either be a pass, meaning the eyes do not have any abnormality, or reading not available (if the child is moving and machine cannot focus), or refer. The ‘refer’ indication means that there is a possibility that there is a problem with the child’s sight. The machine also measures astigmatism and detects lazy eyes.
The program has the permission of the Ministry of Education office in San Pedro to carry on with the screenings on the schools. In order for children to take part in the eye test sessions, parents must give approval for the child to take the test. All children from the four schools had their parental approval for the screenings.
The San Pedro Lions Club encourages all parents and schools to take advantage of this free and reliable program which can help detect any abnormalities in children’s eyes. This gives ample of time so the issue can be addressed, and possible permanent damage or even blindness can be avoided.
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