Sustainable impact through community partnership

Community members and dignitaries stand in front of an Avoidable Blindness-Free village billboard.
Through our unique approach, known as our Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Program model, we declared 51 communities or villages across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as Avoidable Blindness-Free in 2022, including villages like Asafora, in Ghana. We work with community leaders and healthcare workers to ensure that the community supports and takes ownership of the process.
Written by Colin Zak, published on July 10, 2023 Sign up for eNews

Asafora is like many other small villages in central Ghana; its several hundred residents are mostly farmers growing cassava and plantain, and many community members have faced barriers to accessing eye health care.

What sets this community apart? It is the first village in the country we declared Avoidable Blindness-Free.

The December 2022 declaration event was several years in the making and is the product of collaboration between the community, the local government and our partner, Saltpond Government Hospital.

“Avoidable Blindness-Free means that the village is free of untreated vision loss,” explains Emmanuel Kumah, our country director for Ghana. “It also means that people in the community know where to receive care. This is important in communities like Asafora, where there has historically been resistance to receiving eye care.”

Our partnership with Asafora began in 2017 with primary eye care training for 10 local community health nurses. This team conducted door-to-door surveys to identify people with eye conditions, distributed vitamin A supplements and provided basic immunizations. Patients with cataract and other eye conditions were referred to the hospital for treatment.

We conducted a second door-to-door screening in 2021 to see how patients were doing and discovered several patients had refused care.

“We realized there was a lot of resistance to receiving eye care within the community, due to misconceptions about surgery,” Emmanuel explains. “We had to double down on our efforts to educate the community and inspire behavioural change.”

Community health nurses were deployed. They knocked on doors and attended churches, mosques, and child and newborn care sessions where they provided eye health education. Creating awareness and encouraging people to seek eye care helps ensure a village becomes, and stays, Avoidable Blindness-Free.

The declaration event was a landmark for public health in Ghana, and Asafora is the first of many rural villages to be declared Avoidable Blindness-Free in the country.

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