Cambodian Children to Benefit From Expertise of Kiwi Eye Specialist
Posted by Mark Devlin
A Kiwi eye specialist is leading the way for a group of Australasian surgeons who are set to help prevent blindness and visual impairment in Cambodian children.
A Kiwi eye specialist is set to help prevent blindness and visual impairment in Cambodian children, by leading the way for a group of Australasian surgeons who will train the country’s local surgeons.
Dr Justin Mora, of Auckland Eye, will be the first of twelve Australasian eye specialists to travel to Cambodia in July to help set up a paediatric ophthalmology service.
Dr Mora will share his expertise voluntarily as part of an initiative funded by the Australian-based Sight for All Foundation, an organisation committed to fighting blindness in the third world.
Dr Mora says it is essential that surgeons like himself try to lift the quality and presence of paediatric ophthalmology in countries like Cambodia because of the scarcity of their eye care services.
“The lack of the right eye care equipment and knowledge in highly-populated poorer countries means that over half of the world’s blind live in the Asia-Pacific region. In preventable cases, this means that an eye problem has not been diagnosed at its infancy,” he says.
“Currently, Cambodian eye surgeons are only trained in adult eye care, but there are many problems children suffer which adults don’t. That’s why we want to establish a group of core professionals who specialise in paediatrics, who can tackle these impairments before they infiltrate into individuals’ adult lives.”
Mora says that while in western countries, early screening tests identify visual impairments in children – these aren’t available in third world counties.
Three quarters of blindness worldwide is preventable or treatable if detected at this early stage, he says.
“In poor countries when these problems are not looked at the child will often simply go blind. We want to help the surgeons to set up screening tests which can diagnose visual problems early on, offering more hope of retaining or improving sight.”
Mora says that visual impairment is a major barrier to development and alleviation of poverty in the developing world, because people are heavily reliant on their sight for work.
“Eye problems can be particularly detrimental to earning capacity in labour-dependent working environments like in Cambodia. This means that without family support it would be extremely hard to look after yourself if you were visually impaired.”
The upcoming Sight for All Foundation programme in Cambodia will see eye specialists training local surgeons in Phnom Penh for a week each, over a twelve month period.
Along with providing education and resources, the eye surgeons will liaise with local hospitals and the Ministry of Health in Cambodia to ensure their support.
Dr Mora, who has worked at Auckland Eye for 17 years, says this approach follows the doctrine of “teach a man to fish, and feed him for a lifetime”.
“By helping the local surgeons to set up a service focused on children’s eye health, we will leave a long-term legacy which could improve the daily lives of thousands of children and effectively adults,” he says.
A father to two teenagers, Dr Mora says he finds being able to employ his expertise to help children particularly satisfying.
“Improving adults’ quality of life after cataract or laser surgery is wonderful, but working with children is particularly rewarding because you’re giving them the incredible gift of improved vision for a lifetime. If my child was visually impaired I would want to know the appropriate medical assistance was there, and hopefully that’s what we can achieve in Cambodia,” he says.
Dr Mora says that expertise in paediatric ophthalmology is lacking worldwide. Along with another Kiwi eye specialist, he will attend an event hosted by The American Association for Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus and the Singapore National Eye Centre, entitled “An Intercontinental Perspective of Paediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus.”
The meeting will see eye surgeons from around the world try to establish a means to help reduce childhood blindness. It will be held in Singapore on July 14.
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