By Felicia Imohimi
Abuja – The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) says it will establish optometry clinics in some Primary Healthcare Centres to curb the prevalence of glaucoma and other eye disease conditions in the country.
Dr Ozy Okonokhua, the President of the association, announced this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja in commemoration of the World Glaucoma week.
The event is holding from March 11 to 16 with the theme “Focus on Glaucoma”.
Okonokhua, who decried non-availability of eye clinics or optometry centres at the rural areas, identified the gap as a major contributor to the burden of eye diseases and blindness in the country.
He emphasised that the establishment of such clinics at some Primary Health Care Centres (PHCs) would go a long way in ensuring early detection and management of glaucoma and other disease condition of the eye.
He further urged the Federal Government to prioritise establishment of eye care centres in every nook and cranny of the society for easier access of the masses and early presentation of any visual challenges.
According to him, such measures will further reduce the burden or forestall avoidable blindness.
“While we are calling on the government to extend eye care services to the rural areas especially in PHCs, NOA is not going to rest on its oars in making sure that the populace in the rural areas have access to primary eye care.
“We are currently drawing up a scheme in collaboration with Essilor International Agency among others to ensure that eye care services is rendered in healthcare centres in rural areas.
“We are working with some partners to set up optometry clinics in the rural areas that will provide primary eye care services and therefore help to detect glaucoma and other types of eye disease condition.
“The project or programme will be rolled out in April in certain states where this partnership can actually work because some states are ready to partner with us in this regard and they have also promised to give us some of their PHCs,” he noted.
The president noted that World Glaucoma week was set aside by the International Agency for the prevention of blindness to draw attention to the blinding disease ravaging most parts of the world.
Okonokhua, who identified glaucoma as one of the leading causes of blindness globally, however said that over the years there has been little attention paid to the disease.
Okonokhua further described it as the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the country.
According to him, the reason for the theme, “Focus on glaucoma”, is to lay emphasis on glaucoma itself by paying more attention to the disease.
“We have over time sensitise the public and government on the need for regular eye check up for the community.
“However, this year we want to lay emphasis on glaucoma itself by paying attention to glaucoma hence we are focusing on glaucoma as a leading cause of blindness not minding the fact that there are other causes of blindness,” he said.
Okonokhua called on the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) to partner with the NOA in its quest to integrate primary eye care into the primary healthcare system.
He emphasised that the association has the requisite manpower to cover the rural areas.
According to him, presently there are few optometrists in some PHCs and this is the initiative of some local government council chairmen.
“We are calling on NPHCDA to ensure that optometrists are posted to all the PHCs in this country.
“So we can use this as a means of mopping up this disease condition and detecting them and sending them to secondary and tertiary healthcare centres where they can also be properly manage for advance cases of glaucoma.
“NPHCDA should make it a policy that in every PHCs you have optometry services that is able to detect this disease condition,” Okonokhua said.
By Felicia Imohimi