World Sight Day brings much-needed eye care to underprivileged | Daily News

World Sight Day brings much-needed eye care to underprivileged

The Brian Holden Vision Institute Foundation, a social enterprise based in Australia developing new solutions for vision care, marked World Sight Day 2018 by organising a symposium, a walk and several eye care programmes on October 11.

Brian Holden Vision Institute Chief Executive Officer and International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), Western Pacific, Amanda Davies and Brian Holden Vision Institute Foundation Regional Director, SEAEM – Public Health, Sumrana Yasmin were in Sri Lanka to participate in the World Sight Day 2018 activities. They visited slum areas and labourers’ quarters at a tea factory, conducted eye clinics and gave away spectacles to those in need.

In 2004, in the aftermath of the tsunami, Professor Brian Holden, an Australian, visited Sri Lanka to replace spectacles lost in the tsunami. He saw a need for improvement of eye health at that time.

Professor Holden selected eight young persons from Deraniyagala and sent them to India to be trained as optometrists. They returned once their training was completed, to serve deserving communities.

A country office was established and registered in 2008 and programmes to help fill eye care provision gaps in the existing health care system were set in place.

The Institute opened three vision centres in the Kegalle District, at Warakapola, Yatiyantota and Deraniyagala, in 2009. The Institute also established a vision centre in the Gampaha district in partnership with the Lions Golden Jubilee Hospital, which is now owned and operated by Lions.

The Colombo Urban Comprehensive Eye Care Project 2009–2014, a Standard Chartered Bank ‘Seeing is Believing’ initiative, was launched in selected urban slum areas of Colombo – Kolonnawa and Dehiwela. An optical workshop was also established at the National Eye Hospital which provides free spectacles to deserving beneficiaries, most of whom would not have the funds to purchase a pair of spectacles.

By establishing these models of eye care in Sri Lanka, the Institute has provided eye health services to over 99,000 people; dispensed over 54,000 pairs of spectacles; referred more than 18,000 individuals for secondary or tertiary eye care services; and conducted awareness programmes that have reached over two million community members.

The centres successfully provide culturally appropriate, good quality, affordable eye care services in Sri Lanka.

The establishment of vision centres in Sri Lanka has increased access to affordable eye care for those in need, offering sustainable eye care solutions to the large majority of the population.

The Institute targets service provision to children, the elderly and underprivileged members of the community who are often discriminated against and have limited access to services.

Human resource for eye health

To develop capacity, the Institute has invested in the tertiary education of local youths to become part of eye health workforce. Scholarships are awarded to individuals to train in India to become vision technicians and optometrists. The Institute has also supported education workshops for ophthalmic technologists, ophthalmic nurses, spectacle technicians and biomedical engineers in areas such as ophthalmic equipment repair and maintenance, spectacle lens cutting and fitting, prescribing devices for patients with low vision and low vision patient management.

To date, over 600 personnel have been trained in primary eye care and vision screening, and low vision management.

Gender equity

A key achievement of the programme is ensuring gender equity in all aspects of programme development, including empowering women for health by creating supportive services, structures, and incentives. The average ratio of women and young girls accessing eye care services at our vision centres is 56 percent – this has been achieved by integrating gender responsive strategies, training women to be their own agents of change, creating an enabling and supportive environment, and engaging the local community to build ownership for sustainability.

Moving forward

While continuing to collaborate with the Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Ministry, the Vision 2020 Secretariat, (I)NGOs, and community-based organisations, the Institute plans to scale up by increasing its geographical coverage and engagement with broader stakeholders.

The Foundation’s Children’s Vision Campaign is conducted in partnership with World Vision, Muslim Hands and community-based organisations.


 

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