Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and raises the risk of disease and death from severe infection. In pregnant women VAD causes night blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality.
VAD is a public health problem in many developing countries. Supplying adequate vitamin A in high-risk areas can significantly reduce mortality. Conversely, its absence causes a needlessly high risk of disease and death from such common childhood infections as diarrheal disease and measles.
In April 2013, we repeated our annual mission trip to combat glaucoma and Vitamin A deficiency in the Dominican Republic. The focus of the trip is glaucoma treatment, eye health education, and Vitamin A distribution. Glaucoma is the commonest cause of blindness in blacks and Hispanic populations. The World Health Organization deems the Dominican Republic at risk for Vitamin A deficiency.
To start the mission, a set of twenty-five of the primary health care workers of the villages (cooperadores) received a review and training session. They received instruction on glaucoma, the importance of hand washing, vitamin A deficiency and eye trauma. Dr. Kosoko-Lasaki emphasized importance of hand washing and disease of the eye.They received additional literature about glaucoma to share with their community. They were each given enough vitamin A for the children of their respective villages, along with instruction and literature on how to administer it. That same day, all the cooperadores also received a full eye exam.
The next four days involved eye exams, surgery and vitamin A outreach. We saw 135 people for eye exams at the Institute of Latin American Concern (ILAC). We visited the village of La Vega for Vitamin A distribution. In addition to the vitamin A capsules, ILAC’s Dr. Leo Carretera also distributed an anti-parasite to the children and the adults. We were also involved in providing screening and ocular examination and treatment for adults, specifically for glaucoma. If any other complications were found, such as cataracts, individuals were referred to Dr. Sebastian Guzman.
A total of 106 adults received complete ophthalmologic exams for glaucoma. These exams included registration, risk assessment, visual acuity tests, slit lamp microscopy, and tonometry. Visual fields and funduscopy were done as needed. A total of 129 children, ages 6 months to 6 years, were screened and received Vitamin A. Five breastfeeding mothers were also given Vitamin A. Over 1200 children and breast feeding mothers will be given mega dose Vitamin A due to the distribution efforts of this trip.
The children, adults, and health care personnel in the Dominican Republic all benefited greatly from the efforts of the Eye Care team. The collaborative efforts of the Eye Care team, a local Santiago Ophthalmologist, and the ILAC staff are far reaching and very effective. This is demonstrated by the sheer number of returning patients from previous years. The ILAC cooperadores (health care workers) use a grassroots approach, which has been found to be very effective. Using this methodology, ILAC is able to reach the poor and marginalized residents in the remote, underserved areas of the Dominican Republic better than any other organization.
Vitamin A Check-in Receiving Vitamin A Supplement