The Problem

  • The World Health Organization estimates that 153 million people around the world have uncorrected refractive errors.
  • The Western Asia-Pacific Region, which includes Vietnam, is reported to have the most cases of uncorrected refractive error in the world at approximately 62 million. 
  • It is estimated that one in five Vietnamese children has a type of refractive error and most are undiagnosed and untreated.

What HKI Is Doing

Helen Keller International has been supporting blindness prevention programs in partnership with the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology (VNIO), also known as the National Eye Hospital in Hanoi, since 1990. We currently are piloting our refractive error program, ChildSight®, in fifteen of Kon Tum Province's primary and secondary schools. 

Refractive Error/ChildSight®
The goal of this program is to improve the vision of children in Kon Tum Province by strengthening the ability of health personnel to provide pediatric eye care services. Local ophthalmologists train community health staff and teachers to screen, identify and refer children with eye health problems. Screenings are then organized in different schools each month. The trained teachers and health workers work together to organize the students, conduct the screenings and record results, noting those students who fail the visual acuity test. These students are then refracted by an eye doctor who visits the school the following week. After being refracted, students choose eyeglass frames from a wide selection and the doctor writes a prescription; both are sent to an optic shop where the glasses are assembled. Children who need eyeglasses receive them in their school within two to three weeks of the initial screening.

Last year, 7,047 school children from 10 secondary and primary schools were screened; 1,706 students were refracted and 743 children in need received eyeglasses. Future plans include expanding the ChildSight® model to other districts in Kon Tum Province and also other provinces in Vietnam.

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Past Accomplishments:

HKI's initial plan of action with the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology focused on assessing eye health needs and developing a training center for cataract surgery.

Cataract Treatment / Primary EyeCare Training
From 1996 to 2005, HKI provided state-of-the-art cataract training to ophthalmologists in Vietnam at five Centers for Ophthalmic Training. HKI also established the first Comprehensive Cataract Care (CCC) model in five provinces to improve screening for cataract cases, provide high quality surgery, and ensure systematic patient aftercare. The project provided cataract surgeries to over 2,500 patients and trained 861 health workers on primary eyecare and 31 doctors on surgical and post-surgical techniques.

From 2007-2011, with support from The Nippon Foundation, HKI implemented a program to improve access of quality eye health services for the poor in 6 provinces that provided free cataract surgery to 4,245 poor patients who would have otherwise been unable to afford surgery. The project also trained 103 district health professionals on community ophthalmology, 22 eye doctors on cataract surgery and 877 community health workers on primary eyecare.

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Vitamin A Supplementation 
In 1994, HKI provided technical assistance to the National Vitamin A Deficiency Survey for Vietnam’s National Institute of Nutrition. The results of this survey led to a national program to distribute vitamin A supplements to all children 6 months to to 5 years of age and postpartum women.

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