$1 million grant is a sight for sore eyes
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
The grant will fund a four-year training program run by the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology (SAIO) in conjunction with two city eye hospitals and 33 regional eye centres in the South-East Asian country.
Eye diseases are a serious problem in Burma, with more than 8% of adults over the age of 40 officially categorised as blind, and more than 40% vision impaired, the highest published rates in the world. About 64% of blindness and 70% of low vision problems are caused by cataracts.
Dr James Muecke, an ophthalmology lecturer at the University of Adelaide and Director of the Vision Myanmar Program, said that 200 ophthalmologists currently service Burma's population of 50 million, with the majority practising in the two largest cities.
"Outside Yangon and Mandalay, there is one ophthalmologist for every half a million people," Dr Muecke said. "The cataract surgery rate is particularly low in the remote rural communities. There is clearly an urgent need to increase the number of ophthalmologists trained in Burma to address the growing cataract problem."
The University of Adelaide's Discipline of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, which runs the SAIO program, has been providing ophthalmologic services to Burma for the past 10 years. In that period, 21 SAIO consultants have donated their time on a rotational basis to provide training, research and equipment for the Yangon and Mandalay Eye Hospitals.
"This AusAid grant will help fund the program's work for the next four years," Dr Muecke said.
"It will enable us to provide Burma with much-needed equipment and training in both general eye diseases and specialised areas such as glaucoma, plastic surgery on the eye (oculo-plastic), cataracts and other related diseases."
The program also provides fellowships for visiting Burmese ophthalmologists to spend up to 12 months in Adelaide learning new skills to help fight and prevent eye diseases in their country.
Dr Aye Aye Khine is six months into a one-year Oculo-plastic Fellowship at the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology. She is the third person to be awarded the fellowship as part of the Vision Myanmar Program.
"There are a lot of eye problems in Burma but most of the ophthalmologists there do not have specialised skills. My aim when I return next year is to set up an oculo-plastic clinic and pass on the knowledge that I have learned in Adelaide to my colleagues in Burma," Dr Khine said.
In mid 2008 SAIO expects to offer a paediatrics fellowship to another Burmese ophthalmologist.
Director of the Vision Myanmar Program
Discipline of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8222 2729
Mobile: +61 0419 977 509
Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762