SNEC sets up office to advance eyecare in the region

Singapore National Eye Centre CEO Aung Tin said the office aims to centralise its efforts in preventing blindness in the region. PHOTO: SINGAPORE NATIONAL EYE CENTRE

SINGAPORE - As part of efforts to address vision impairment in the region, the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) has set up an office to train eyecare professionals and conduct eyecare research addressing challenges in South-east Asia.

The centre’s chief executive officer, Professor Aung Tin, said on Thursday that the SNEC Global Ophthalmology Office (SNEC Go) aims to centralise its efforts, together with those of the Singapore Eye Research Institute (Seri), in preventing blindness in the region.

“SNEC Go will focus on training ophthalmologists, as well as nurses and ophthalmic allied healthcare professionals from countries in the region,” he said, noting that this would involve the development of a “robust digital ophthalmic education platform”.

He added that SNEC Go will establish a global research consultancy and collaboration unit, as well as offer research fellowship opportunities for eyecare professionals in the region.

It will also partner organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB)

Prof Aung was speaking at a workshop on eye health – organised by the WHO regional office for the Western Pacific and IAPB, and hosted by SNEC – held at the Academia building on the Singapore General Hospital campus.

While SNEC Go was set up in 2020 and has conducted a series of webinars on eye health, its regional ambitions began taking shape in 2022 with the signing of an agreement with the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the event, Prof Aung said allied health professionals in Vietnam would begin training under a curriculum developed by SNEC Go from 2023, and he expects to have a similar arrangement in Indonesia next.

While he did not say how much the office’s initiatives would cost, Prof Aung said he hoped donors would help support its efforts.

There are about 40 million blind people in the world. South-east Asia has among the highest rates of blindness, accounting for some 28 per cent of people in the world with avoidable blindness, according to figures from WHO.

IAPB Western Pacific chair Amanda Davis said that among the challenges facing the region are an ageing population as well as an increasing rate of diabetes, which brings with it complications from diabetic retinopathy, which can cause vision loss.

Increasing cases of myopia are also likely to cause a “phenomenal crisis” by 2050, she said.

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