A training program for the trainers (ToT) on screening and management of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), an eye condition that can lead to blindness in preterm babies and infants with low birth weight, was held at the National Institute of Ophthalmology & Hospital (NIO&H) on Thursday (November 16).
Dr Golam Mostafa, Director-cum-Professor at NIO&H and Line Director at National Eye Care (NEC), inaugurated the training as the chief guest while Dr Munir Ahmed, Country Director at Orbis International, among others, spoke at the inaugural ceremony.
NEC and Orbis International organised the inaugural ceremony of the training programme that marked International Prematurity Day, which is observed on November 17 worldwide.
Prof Dipak Kumar Nag, Secretary General of the Ophthalmological Society of Bangladesh (OSB), and Dr Khair Ahmed Choudhury, Associate Professor and Head of the Paediatric Ophthalmology Department at NIO&H, were present at the programme as the guests of honour.
Prof Mostofa, in his speech, said training, especially in a clinical subject like ROP, is very important for ophthalmologists. “This is very timely initiative and we need to expand this training across the country to ensure that ROP screening and treatment services are available and accessible to premature babies,” he added.
Mostofa said emphasis needs to be put on awareness raising at the community level where vision centres or community eye care centres can play a vital role in the prevention of childhood blindness caused by ROP.
Dr Munir also highlighted the importance of the training. He said Orbis International has been working on capacity building in ROP screening and treatment services in Bangladesh since 2012. According to him, capacity building is important in two respects, firstly on public health perspectives and secondly on clinical perspectives.
ROP is a unique vaso-proliferative disorder affecting the avascular retina of premature and low birth-weight neonates. If not detected and treated timely, it can quickly progress to blinding stage. Timely screening (within 30 days of life) and treatment on early stage of ROP can prevent blindness.
According to UN, more than 3 million children are born every year in Bangladesh, of them 12.5 percent or around 400,000 are born premature. According to a national survey, 22.6 percent of babies are born with low birth weight (below 2.5 Kg) in Bangladesh.
Over the last decade, Bangladesh has made notable success in health and economic sectors that led to a visible reduction of infant and child mortality, maternal mortality and avoidable blindness and improvement in its new-born care. Global evidence suggests that enhancing the capacity to deliver maternal, new-born, child health, eye care services, reducing maternal, child mortality, and increasing access to quality health services have played leading roles in preventing avoidable childhood blindness.
ROP remains one of the leading preventable causes of blindness in children in the developing world like Bangladesh.
Since 2019 more than 2500 babies were screened and around 74 babies were treated for ROP supported by Orbis alone. Orbis has also played a significant role in developing national ROP guideline for screening and management and committed to support in capacity building areas of interested partners. To date, Orbis has established five screening and referral facilities in Dhaka and remote rural districts and thriving to connect with tertiary referral hospitals such as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) and Ispahani Islamia Eye Institute & Hospital.
Orbis’s advocacy resulted in prioritising ROP in the NEC and also convinced UNICEF to provide eight RetCam to the government hospitals/institutions. On November 17 of each year, International Prematurity Day is observed worldwide and Bangladesh is no exception. Orbis initiated the training on the eve of this important event together with NEC.