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Program brings eye care to Indigenous children in remote areas

People can access the virtual eye care once a week

A program launched by Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) in partnership with McMaster University aims to make eye care more accessible for Indigenous children and youth in remote northern communities.

The goal of the Indigenous Children Eye Examination (ICEE) project is to improve vision care and bring eye examination and vision screening to children and youth aged from six months to 18 years old.

The $1.7-million project, which started in June 2020, is funded by Indigenous Services Canada. 

The six participating communities are Weenusk First Nation (Peawanuck), Fort Albany First Nation, Kashechewan First Nation, Attawapiskat First Nation, Moose Cree First Nation and the Town of Moosonee.

Through the computer software developed at McMaster and with the help from local healthcare workers, children in remote northern communities will be able to connect virtually with a team of eye specialists at McMaster once a week.

Children who require further evaluation and treatment will be brought to McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton depending on travel restrictions, according to the news release.

“In general, the clinics are going well. Once the initiative fully takes off, it will provide a very good benefit to our families,” WAHA’s regional telemedicine coordinator Christine Faries said in the statement. “Most people don’t want to travel out of the region especially with their children if they don’t have to.”

The local nursing staff is also being trained by the Hamilton-based team to do vision screening and eyeglass fittings on children. Training is being done through online custom-made teaching modules.

“Once they have been trained to do this, most children examined who need follow-up will be able to be treated locally. This will begin the transition of the program into a self-sustaining, long-term model of care,” the project lead Kourosh Sabri said.

Sabri and the ICEE team can also fill prescriptions for eyeglasses and send them to the children in the Northern Ontario communities within days of the glasses being prescribed.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva

About the Author: Dariya Baiguzhiyeva

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering diversity issues for TimminsToday. The LJI is funded by the Government of Canada
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