The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital Lands in Hanoi for the First Time to Conduct Intensive Ophthalmic Training (PR Newswire)

FedEx-sponsored program aims to strengthen childhood blindness prevention projects in Vietnam

NEW YORK, May 26, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Orbis, a leading global non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to eliminate avoidable blindness, in cooperation with longtime global sponsor FedEx, has brought the Flying Eye Hospital (FEH)—the world’s only accredited ophthalmic training hospital aboard a DC-10 aircraft—to Hanoi, Vietnam for the first time. Orbis is working with the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology (VNIO) to hold a two-week national ophthalmic training program from May 25June 5, 2015, following a successful two-week FEH program recently conducted in Hue, Vietnam from May 4 – 15, 2015.

The Hanoi FEH program aims to strengthen the surgical skills of ophthalmologists and enhance the capacity of eye care services provided by VNIO, especially in pediatric ophthalmology. In particular, the program focuses on advancing hands-on and participant level skills in the areas of cornea, medical and surgical retina, orthoptics, oculoplastics and conditions affecting children, including strabismus and glaucoma. The program also provides hands-on training tailored to nurses, anesthesiologists, biomedical engineers and other healthcare professionals in the areas of pediatric nursing, quality assurance and management, safe pediatric anesthesia and medical equipment management.

Eye diseases and blindness are common in Vietnam. The 2007 Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) study estimated that more than half a million Vietnamese people are blind, and the majority of blindness is caused by cataract (66.1%). Approximately 3 million Vietnamese children are visually impaired, while more than 23,000 of them suffer from bilateral blindness[1]. Another study of children attending blind schools showed that the main causes of childhood blindness were retina (24.6%) and cornea (24%) diseases. Among them, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which is an eye disorder affecting premature babies, represented 32.6% of blindness in children under 10 years old, and 6% between the ages of 10 and 16[2]. 

Eye disease modality and treatment in children are very different from adults. Children’s eyes are not just smaller, but they require special, trained surgical techniques, including nursing and anesthesia. Although significant progress has been made in recent years to address the avoidable blindness problems in adults, there is still inadequate coverage of pediatric eye care services in rural districts in Vietnam.

There is also a shortage of trained pediatric ophthalmologists and equipment needed to detect common childhood eye diseases locally. Therefore, the National Blindness Prevention Steering Committee (NBPSC), which is led by VNIO and chaired by the Ministry of Health, has identified the prevention of childhood blindness as a priority eye care issue in the country.

“To tackle the root causes of the issue, VNIO, together with several key ophthalmic institutes and eye care NGOs including Orbis, has identified three key strategic pillars, which will be our focus for the next three years,” said Jenny Hourihan, President and CEO of Orbis International. “The three strategic pillars include: 1) developing guidelines of minimum service provision that children should expect to access at all levels of the public health system; 2) standardizing the training program of human resource development for pediatric ophthalmology; and 3) reforming the application of the Health Insurance System to generate funding for pediatric eye care services.”  

To enhance the quality and safety of clinical services for children delivered by VNIO, as well as to strengthen its capacity to produce training materials and conduct teaching courses in pediatric ophthalmology, Orbis launched a 5-year project in August 2013 named “Strengthening the Capacity of National Institute of Ophthalmology to Improve Pediatric Eye Health in Vietnam,” which will run through December 2017 in Hanoi.

Backed by extensive research and analysis undertaken by Orbis in Vietnam and VNIO, the project covers human resource development, quality assurance, institutional capacity building, education programs and advocacy of the nation’s child eye care policy. It also aims to transform Vietnam’s pediatric ophthalmology in order to meet international standards and best practices, which is the main goal of the Hanoi FEH program.

“As a global sponsor of Orbis for more than three decades, FedEx continues to support its mission to eliminate avoidable blindness in children and adults in the developing world,” said Mr. Binh Nguyen, FedEx Senior Manager, Indochina & Myanmar & Chief Representative for Vietnam. “By supporting the FEH training program in Hanoi, we are committed to helping strengthen the ongoing projects on childhood blindness prevention carried out by Orbis and VNIO in Vietnam.” FedEx has previously supported five Orbis FEH programs in Vietnam since 2006, including four in Da Nang and one in Ho Chi Minh City.

About Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology (VNIO)
Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology is the leading institution that delivers tertiary-level ophthalmic services, trains all types of human resources for eye care and conducts research as well as coordinates national prevention of blindness programs in Vietnam. It also engages in scientific research and community ophthalmology by actively disseminating eye care information to the public. VNIO also acts as an advisory body to the Ministry of Health on eye health policies, and leads the National Blindness Prevention Steering Committee, which was established in 2007 and chaired by the Ministry of Health. 

About Orbis 
Orbis prevents and treats blindness through hands-on training, public health education, improved access to quality eye care, advocacy and partnerships with local health care organizations. By building long-term capabilities, Orbis helps its partner institutions take action to reach a state where they can provide, on their own, quality eye care services that are affordable, accessible, and sustainable. To learn more about Orbis, please visit www.orbis.org.

About FedEx Corp.
FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) provides customers and businesses worldwide with a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services.  With annual revenues of $46 billion, the company offers integrated business applications through operating companies competing collectively and managed collaboratively, under the respected FedEx brand.  Consistently ranked among the world’s most admired and trusted employers, FedEx inspires its more than 300,000 team members to remain “absolutely, positively” focused on safety, the highest ethical and professional standards and the needs of their customers and communities.  For more information, visit news.fedex.com.

Media Contacts:
Orbis: Silvana Vivas  
Email: Silvana.vivas@orbis.org 

FedEx contact: Steve Barber
Email: smbarber1@fedex.com

[1] A survey of child eye diseases conducted in conjunction with the RAAB in 2007. 
[2] Hans Limburg, Clare Gilbert, Do Nhu Hon, Nguyen Chi Dung, Prevalence and Causes of Blindness in Children in Vietnam, Ophthalmology, Volume 119, Issue 2, Pages 355-361, February 2012.

Related Links
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SOURCE Orbis

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