Mubende, Uganda, 21 June 2017: Today marks the official launch of the new four year Mubende Comprehensive Eye Health project, targeting all age groups within society. This follows shortly after the completion of a successful East Africa Child Eye Health program which ran for the four years since 2012, under the Seeing is Believing initiative funded by Standard Chartered Bank.
The new program aims to deliver comprehensive eye health comprising the full package; promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative eye health services in the Mubende Health Region. It targets both adults and children as beneficiaries in four underserved districts of the Mubende Health Region in Uganda, namely; Mubende, Mityana, Kiboga and Kyankwanzi. To ensure sustainability these eye care services will be be integrated into the existing national health systems within the districts.
In Uganda, the Institute works in partnership with the Ministry of Health focusing activities on the realization of the current National Eye care Plan. The new program in Mubende seeks to strengthen community eye health by providing essential equipment to support service delivery of eye health services, including refractive services and access to rehabilitation and low vision services. The current National Eye care Plan recognises the need to better serve blind and severe visual impairment in children and adults, and improve service delivery by up-skilling existing eye health human resources.
Professor Kovin Naidoo, CEO, Brien Holden Vision Institute spoke positively on the new program. “We recognise the importance of working together with existing health systems to build sustainable eye care systems in collaboration. Being part of the broader development agenda is a logical fit for public health eye care programs and our global strategy is influenced by local and cultural understanding. With the new comprehensive services in Mubende we aim to address the community’s eye health needs for the long term through a broad strategy of increasing access and building capacity.”
Improvements includes equipping four hospitals to provide comprehensive eye care services benefitting 30,000 adults and 20,000 children. In addition the program will provide the necessary equipment required by a surgical team to perform major and minor surgeries on adults, and minor surgeries on children. Major paediatric surgeries including cataract will be referred to Mulago Hospital, the National Referral Hospital.
It is anticipated that this intervention of equipment at the Regional hospital at Mubende will increase surgeries performed over the next four years to 14,200, by greatly supporting an increase to the current visiting ophthalmologists schedule. A low vision centre will be set up at Mubende Regional Refractive Hospital providing assistive and rehabilitation devices and strengthening established linkages to other health facilities and district hospitals.
Dr Naomi Nsubuga, Sub Regional Manager for East Africa, Brien Holden Vision Institute spoke in anticipation of the new program launch. “Guiding our work we collaborate closely with the ministries of health and education at all levels, using existing government structures and staff thereby ensuring local ownership and moving towards sustainability. We have been working in Uganda for a decade fighting avoidable blindness by addressing uncorrected refractive error, with the aim of improving lives through increased access to comprehensive eye health services,” she said.
Current services in Uganda provided in collaboration with the Institute aim to screen 200,000 children through the schools screening program. Under these services children identified with vision problems, through the initial screening, are referred to the nearest health facility where they are treated by a health worker trained in child eye health.
Adults are screened for vision impairment and those with cataracts or other eye conditions linked diabetes and high blood pressure with are referred appropriately. It is expected that 273,000 adults will benefit from screening.
There is an unequal distribution of eye care services worldwide and a systemic inattention by governments to recognise the importance of eye care. We are grateful to our funding partners Standard Chartered Bank and Optometry Giving Sight for joining together to address this gap in access to eye health services for everyone in Uganda.
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