Retinopathy of prematurity Initiative launched in Maharashtra with the Public Health Foundation.
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) causes babies to needlessly lose their vision. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in premature infants in India.
Today, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee and the Public Health Foundation of India are launching a Retinopathy of Prematurity Initiative in the western state of Maharashtra. The project will train staff to screen for ROP, provide support services, and conduct research to tackle the disease.
India has the largest number of preterm births in the world. “Our goal is to help support sustainable and scalable services for the detection and prevention of severe retinopathy of prematurity which are integrated into the Government of India’s health care system”, explained Dr Astrid Bonfield, Chief Executive at the Trust.
The story of Joginda, Draupadi and Kumran* shows how this important work is in saving the sight of premature babies.
Joginda and Draupadi are the father and mother of a baby called Kumran born on the 18 July 2016 in Pune, western India. Draupadi delivered her baby at 26 weeks, weighing only 2lbs.
After screening Kumran for retinopathy of prematurity, it became apparent that Kumran’s vision was at risk. “Doctors at the hospital told me that my baby’s eyes were not developed, so light (laser) treatment was needed,” said Draupadi.
Under the care of paediatrician Dr Devika Jadhav, the new born care team provided the laser treatment four times at weekly intervals until Kumran’s retina had matured and he was no longer at risk of losing his sight. Thanks to their efforts, Kumran now has normal vision and is not facing a lifetime of blindness.
The Retinopathy of Prematurity Initiative is being piloted in a number of districts in Maharashtra. The Initiative will work to ensure that preterm babies weighing less than 4lbs or born before 34 weeks will be screened for retinopathy of prematurity within 30 days after birth. If the condition is detected, the project will aim to provide treatment within 48 hours so more babies like Kumran will be saved from a life of blindness.
Dr Deepak Sawant, Minister of State for Public Health and Family Welfare who will officially launch the project said:
“I am confident that the Retinopathy of Prematurity project will be successful in Maharashtra and help us to eliminate avoidable blindness in premature infants. I welcome the steps taken by the Indian Institute of Public Health – Hyderabad in bringing us together to tackle this important issue.”
*Name has been changed