Initiative To Prevent Blindness In Premature Kids Grows

The five-year national pilot initiatives on Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) and Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), has screened 10,392 infants and saved 383 babies from going blind. The DR and ROP initiatives helped strengthen health systems in 14 states, including Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The ROP initiative was implemented in 22 Special Newborn Care units in District Hospitals and Medical Colleges in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Telangana.

In a first of its kind initiative, to address the problem of avoidable blindness in India, the Ministry of Health, Government of India, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and partners successfully implemented two pilot initiatives focusing on a comprehensive health system approach to DR and ROP.

“Around 2.5 million babies are born premature; at least 16,500 need treatment for retinopathy. However, there are only 750 newborn intensive care units, which need to be increased to 1000 by 2020,” Prof GVS Murty Director PHFI said, addressing a press conference here on Tuesday.

He added that there are 75 million diabetics in the country and another 80 million in pre-diabetic stage. “Out of this large group 7.3 million have DR but 90% of it is preventable,” he said.

A National Task Force for DR and for ROP were established by the Ministry of Health, and each appointed Technical Expert Groups to develop operational guidelines, and materials for health education and to increase public awareness.

The twin pilot initiatives were part of a five-year, multi-million-pound grant by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. In May 2019, Countess of Wessex visited ROP centers here and interacted with parents of preterm infants, doctors and nurses.

Dr Sangeetha Abrol, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India said, “The DR-ROP initiatives are a signal achievement and a sign of India’s ability to pilot and execute complex, multi-state interventions targeting some of our most vulnerable populations.” However, she said that making screening for ROP compulsory could take time. – Deccan Hearland

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