Opening the eyes of eye care practitioners to prevent blindness in premature babies
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a major cause of blindness among children worldwide but is almost entirely preventable and treatable. Premature babies are often given oxygen in incubators to help them survive, but over-administration of oxygen can be highly toxic to the blood vessels, including those in the retina. Over-exposure to oxygen during the first few hours and days after birth is a major cause of ROP, as is infection. Blindness due to ROP is increasing in middle-income countries, where more premature babies are surviving thanks to improved neonatal care, but where knowledge of ROP and its prevention amongst healthcare workers is lacking.
At the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Disability and Eye Health Group produce an international eye health publication that has been delivering up-to-date, easy-to-understand and practical eye care information to front-line eye care professionals for nearly thirty years: the Community Eye Health Journal.
In the latest issue, twelve global experts in ROP have come together to bridge this gap, and put up-to-date ROP knowledge and guidance in the hands of ophthalmologists, optometrists, neonatal clinicians, and nurses responsible for the care of preterm babies. Together with the Community Eye Health Journal team, and under the expert guidance of Professor Clare Gilbert, who also advises the Trust on its ROP Initiative, these experts have created a comprehensive guide to ROP in a single, 24-page issue of the journal. It includes information about what neonatologists, nurses and parents can do in the crucial days and weeks after birth, and covers the classification, screening and treatment of ROP. Communicating and working with parents is also emphasised, as parents are an important part of the team: they can provide care during their child’s stay in the neonatal unit, and bring their child back for follow-up eye examinations after discharge, if required. An article with clear images and simple text has been included to help clinicians and nurses advise parents on the importance of timely treatment to prevent blindness.
The Community Eye Health Journalis supported solely by donations from charitable organisations. At present, the budget allows for just three out of four issues to be printed and distributed to the 18,000+ readers of the international edition – the fourth issue is only published online. However, with the Trust’s support, over 18,000 copies of this issue can be printed. These are now on their way to front-line eye care practitioners in 184 countries worldwide. In addition, the articles will be translated into Spanish for the Community Eye Health Journal Latin American edition (which is distributed online) and will also be adapted for the South Asia edition, thereby reaching several thousand more readers in these regions.