DOH partners with PhilHealth in eyeglass subsidy project for children, elderly

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MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) is partnering with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to fund an eyeglass subsidy for children and elderly people with eye problems.

According to Maria Sylvia Uy, head of the DOH Blindness Prevention Program, the department wants PhilHealth to cover the provision of eyeglasses as a way to ensure that Filipinos provide a more comprehensive eye care system, especially with the implementation of the Universal Health Care Program.

PhilHealth currently also covers screening, consultation charges and medical expenses for eye problems such as cataract and glaucoma.

Under the new system of arrangement, Uy explained the patient will be referred to a certified optometrist once a baby or elderly person goes to the health center and is found to suffer from a refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism).

PhilHealth will then cover the eyeglass costs that are set at P500 per client, Uy said.

There are about 400,000 Filipinos with uncorrected refractive errors according to the new Philippine National Survey of Blindness and Eye Disease Research.

There were some 3.4 million undiagnosed refractive errors. Due to the impact of untreated eye disease on their lives, the DOH gives priority to kindergarten-age children and senior citizens for eyeglass subsidy, Uy said.

“It could have a negative impact on the academic performance of children. For senior citizens, they need (eyeglasses) because they are prone to falls,” she said.

Dr. Andreas Mueller, regional adviser to the World Health Organization, said providing eyeglasses is a way to deal with vision impairment, a condition that affects 2.2 billion people worldwide, 1 billion of which “could have been prevented.”

“It is needless to lose so much vision. We can handle them correctly if we treat them and locate them early enough,” Mueller said. (Cate Pallarco/IAMIGO/CNS)

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