Retinopathy of Prematurity Network

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a disease that affects premature babies, causing abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina and can lead to blindness. ROP is the most common cause of blindness in middle income countries and is becoming increasingly frequent in low income countries as neonatal services improve and more premature babies survive. Many low and middle income countries (LMICs) haven’t got policies and services in place to detect and treat ROP.

The ROP-NET aims to strengthen the capacity of ROP centres in six LMICs to deliver services for the detection and treatment of ROP. This is achieved through a mentorship programme where centres of excellence in ROP from India, South Africa and the UK train centres in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

An initial orientation meeting was held in London with the six centres to understand their needs. A planning meeting followed in Hyderabad where mentees were partnered with a mentor from a centre of excellence, and activities plans were drawn up. Training and capacity building has been delivered through reciprocal visits and workshops.

Since the establishment of the network Ghana and Tanzania have started delivering ROP screening for the first time.
Kenya has established an ROP National Working Group. The group advocates for ROP and its raised awareness of the disease among ophthalmology residents. National ROP guidelines have been published and ROP screening training has been delivered in new neonatal units.
In Nigeria further neonatal units have been included in the programme and data are being collected to inform ROP national guidelines.
Sri Lanka has worked to increase awareness amongst neonatologists and neonatal nurses and is training optometrists to screen ROP.
Pakistan held a national planning meeting that agreed a roadmap for the way forward in ROP prevention and treatment.