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Open Access Research article

A pilot study to evaluate incorporating eye care for children into reproductive and child health services in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania: a historical comparison study

Milka Madaha Mafwiri1*, Rodrick Kisenge2 and Clare Elizabeth Gilbert3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ophthalmology, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, P.O. Box 65001, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

2 Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

3 Department of Clinical Research, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK

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BMC Nursing 2014, 13:15  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-13-15

Published: 2 June 2014



Many blinding eye conditions of childhood are preventable or treatable, particularly in developing countries. However, primary eye care (PEC) for children is poorly developed, leading to unnecessary visual loss. Activities for control by health workers entail interventions for systemic conditions (measles, vitamin A deficiency), identification and referral of children with sight threatening conditions and health education for caregivers. This pilot study evaluated integrating a package of activities to promote child eye health into Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) services in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.


Design: historical comparison study. Fifteen Clinical Officers and 15 nurses in 15 randomly selected RCH clinics were trained in PEC for children in July 2010. They were given educational materials (poster and manual) and their supervisors were orientated. Knowledge and practices were assessed before and 3 weeks after training. One year later their knowledge and practices were compared with a different group of 15 Clinical Officers and 15 nurses who had not been trained.


Before training staff had insufficient knowledge to identify, treat and refer children with eye diseases, even conjunctivitis. Some recommended harmful practices or did not know that cataract requires urgent referral. Eye examination, vitamin A supplementation of mothers after delivery and cleaning the eyes at birth with instillation of antibiotics (Crede’s prophylaxis) were not routine, and there were no eye-specific educational materials.

Three weeks after training several clinics delivering babies started Crede’s prophylaxis, vitamin A supplementation of women after delivery increased from 83.7% to 100%, and all staff included eye conditions in health education sessions. At one year, trained staff were more likely to correctly describe, diagnose and treat conjunctivitis (z=2.34, p=0.04)(30%-vs-60.7%). Mystery mothers observed health education sessions in 7/10 RCH clinics with trained staff, five (71.4%) of which included eye conditions.


Primary eye care for children in Dar-es-Salaam is inadequate but training RCH staff can improve knowledge in the short term and change practices. Attendance by mothers and their children is high in RCH clinics, making them ideal for delivery of PEC. Ongoing supportive supervision is required to maintain knowledge and practices, as well as systems to track referrals.

Child eye health; Primary eye care; Reproductive and child health clinics; Tanzania