Shastry V. Mallady and Ramya Kannan

In many districts, students’ performance has been affected by poor vision and hearing, says Thangam Thennarasu

The programme will be implemented by District Blindness Control Societies

Eye check-up will be conducted in schools

CHENNAI: The school health programme will be revitalised and made into a more comprehensive preventive health check-up scheme, similar to Varummun Kappom Thittam, School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu has said.

The existing school education programme is a series of health camps run for children in schools, with treatment and follow-up provided. Mr. Thennarasu told The Hindu that there was a need to covert the school health programme into a more comprehensive scheme like Varummun Kappom Thittam, as the importance of preventive health awareness among students could not be under-stressed.

Furthermore, in a number of districts, it was found that students’ performance in school had been severely affected by poor vision and hearing. Hence, the revitalised programme would lay a special emphasis on ophthalmology and ENT, he said.

To be launched across schools in September, the programme will be implemented by the District Blindness Control Societies, Director of Public Health S. Elango said. Eye check-up would be conducted in schools to test the children’s vision, provide treatment and refer them to hospitals for follow-up. “Eye check-up camps are already part of our school health programme. We now intend to give it an added emphasis,” he said. “Students’ academic performance is directly linked to good vision/eyesight. It is important to ensure that children continue to have good vision, and to prevent blindness in future,” Dr. Elango said. Superintendent of the Government Institute of Ophthalmology M. Radhakrishnan said if detected early, some of the vision defects could be remedied easily, and prevented in other cases. While the commonest complaint found among schoolchildren is refractive errors (short sight and long sight), there are also a substantial number of cases of eye injuries, disorders caused by nutritional deficiencies and squint.

About 5-10 per cent of all children tested have refractive errors. Once detected, they are provided glasses. Injuries can be caused while at play or in the classroom; if not treated, they can lead to vision impairment, ophthalmologists say. On the other hand, Vitamin A deficiency can be set right by just providing information about the right foods. “In fact, the number of children coming to us with Vitamin A deficiency has come down. This is due to increased awareness among parents. They provide the right nutritional inputs to the children,” he said.

It will be part of the activities of the District Blindness Control Society to spread awareness. Spectacles will also be issued to students to correct the refractive errors. During 2007-2008, the society screened more than 14 lakh schoolchildren, exceeding the target of 8,00,000, according to the society’s website.