The State Government has proposed to extend a programme on prevention and management of infant blindness to six more districts under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) of the Centre.

The programme was launched last year in Raichur, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Bidar, Bijapur, Bagalkot and Koppal, which have low health indicators. Raichur has been made a nodal centre for implementing the programme.

Under the programme, all premature babies born in the districts will be screened for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) soon after their birth, and treated. The programme is to screen all premature babies born in rural areas and ensure that their defective vision is treated at the right time. “With childhood wellness, including right to sight, being one of the major components of NRHM, this programme will be a boon to children in backward areas,” V.D. Palekar, project head, Health and Family Welfare Department, told The Hindu .

In the second phase, it is proposed to extend the programme to six more districts — Chitradurga, Bellary, Davangere, Haveri, Gadag and Dharwad. Low health indicator is the major reason for selection of these districts. Davangere will be made a nodal centre for these districts.

The department, which is implementing the programme on public-private partnership model, has roped in Narayana Nethralaya Postgraduate Institute of Ophthalmology (NNPGIO), Bangalore, for medical treatment. Under the partnership, experts from Narayana Nethralaya will train ophthalmologists and technicians to screen rural children and transfer the images to the hospital.

The focus would be on tackling preventable blindness. All premature babies and babies whose birth weight is less than 2 kg would be screened. Around 15 per cent of newborns, who weigh less than 2 kg, come across blindness-related problems, Dr. Palekar said.

Ophthalmologists of NNPGIO will visit designated places or health centres in a mobile vehicle equipped with laser unit with portable ophthalmoscope and wide filed portable paediatric digital camera for check-up and treatment. The medical treatment is free of cost, officials said.

Health cards

Doctors will issue health cards to all those infants having eyesight problems and inform them about the next dates for check-ups. If required, the children would be brought to Bangalore for further treatment.

As on August 26, 2011, images of 608 babies have been screened and 27 p.c. of ROP has been reported. Five per cent of ROP was found treatable in Raichur, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Bidar, Bijapur, Bagalkot and Koppal districts.

  • Premature babies will be screened for defective vision and treated
  • Narayana Nethralaya Postgraduate Institute of Ophthalmology has been roped in for the scheme