Optometry Giving Sight has provided substantial financial support over the past 7 years to help enhance access to eye care for people in Sri Lanka. 3 Vision Centres have been established and 7 Sri Lankans have obtained their degrees or diplomas in Optometry.
Over the past year, we have contributed to the efforts of the Brien Holden Vision Institute and the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka to establish the country’s first optometry degree program. As a result, eye care in Sri Lanka is gradually becoming recognised by the government as a priority for the country’s health care sector, and as an important profession in the Sri Lankan health system.
There is much enthusiasm for the optometry program in both the government and private sector, with the first intake of 20 students anticipated in January 2015. Around 40 to 50 students will be enrolled in subsequent years to meet the targets of the National Eye Care Plan.
Once they graduate, the students will join the eye care work force, supporting existing structures, creating new infrastructure and sustaining service delivery across the country, making comprehensive eye health services accessible at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
Niroshan, who took part in a one-year vision technician course in India with the LV Prasad Eye Institute in 2008, now has more than five years of work experience in the Warakapola Vision Centre. He has provided eye examinations to over 12,000 patients. Over the past three years he has also been working in the National Vision 2020 program eye clinics where he has assisted community eye screening projects on a monthly basis, and in 2011, he undertook a diploma course in optometry at the Sri Lanka Foundation.
He is excited about the introduction of the optometry degree program in Sri Lanka as he knows it will strengthen the overall quality of eye care that will be available to local people.
“Most of the people in local communities lack eye health awareness or basic vision care education, so when they hear about our clinic they come to us with life-long, untreated eye conditions including refractive error,” he said.
“It is very common for young children to have eye conditions which are avoidable with earlier treatment, and unfortunately they lead to a stifled or incomplete education and divergent career paths. A sad fact is that many parents do not even know their children are having problems with their vision”.
Niroshan said he recently treated a young girl who was suffering from eyestrain and frontal lobe headaches.
“I examined her and found she was suffering from severe myopia and keratoconus,’ he said. “I prescribed her a pair of spectacles and gave her a referral for the keratoconus to be investigated. Several months later I heard that she had passed her exams, and the following year she managed to get into the University of her choice. She had previously given up on her goal of tertiary education because of her difficulties in seeing and her headaches. I will never forget that. This is why this program is so important for our country and the future of eye care here”.