Is the existing knowledge and skills of health workers regarding eye care in children sufficient to meet needs?

Elizabeth Kishiki , Margreet Hogeweg, Marjolein Dieleman, Susan Lewallen and Paul Courtright
Publication year: 

Although uncommon, childhood blindness is a major contributor to blind-person years in Africa. Children with vision-related problems need urgent referral, but existing evidence suggests that there is delay in presentation. A pilot study in a random selection of government dispensaries in two districts of Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania, was conducted to assess the knowledge and skills of primary healthcare workers regarding eye care needs of children.  Questionnaires were administered to 16 healthcare workers, and in-depth interviews were conducted with 9 health workers and 2 key informants. Overall, 88% of workers recognised cataract in a picture, 63% knew that it required surgery but only 50% realised surgery was urgent. Only 38% recognised squint as needing referral and none considered this urgent. Moreover, 38% could correctly suggest a cause of a large corneal scar and 44% of workers believed that children with albinism need to attend schools for the blind. Poor knowledge of referral and treatment guidelines are likely due to a number of factors, including inadequate training and the rarity of childhood blindness. Primary eye care manuals should be reviewed to ensure that information regarding childhood blindness is adequate and appropriate. Referral pathways should also be revised.