We must see through their eyes (Part 2 of 2)

Written by Admin, published on June 8, 2012 Donate Today

On May 25, I wrote about why quality is so important to Operation Eyesight. In case you’re wondering why I’m writing about this now, it’s because too many people are afraid to get the help they need.

For years now, we’ve known that next to cataracts, the second leading cause of avoidable blindness in developing countries throughout the world is failed cataract surgeries. It’s a terrible shame. And yet, it continues!

The practice of offering substandard care to eye patients is fueled by the urgency to reduce the huge crowd of people still waiting for cataract surgery. But there is another way to look at this, and that is through the eyes of people threatened by blindness.

In my last blog post, I asked you to picture a poor Indian woman who is going blind from cataracts. If we could actually take the time to know her, we would learn why she refused free medical help. We may discover that she has some questions of her own, such as, “Why are you offering to do this for me?” and “Can I really trust you?”

Community health workers educate the public on the importance of eye care and earn their trust in the community. (Photo by Jo-Lynne Sutherland.)

We got to know thousands of others with similar stories. We did it by recruiting people from these same villages and teaching them about basic eye care. These Community Health Workers were trained to take this knowledge back to their villages and share it with the people. We learned a lot from the people, and they learned a lot of about eye health and the hospitals that wanted to help them.

For the hospitals we support, the concept and practice of quality permeates the whole organization. What I described in the last paragraph is quality that cannot be easily measured: service to individuals, trust and respect. This goes hand-in-hand with quality that can be measured: hospital cleanliness, clinical outcomes, infection rates, etc.

If these hospitals follow accepted international protocols and standards, failures from infection are kept to a minimum. This translates into good outcomes, and word gets around – reputation and trust is built. Out in the surrounding villages, the community workers help alleviate patients’ fears, and they facilitate the process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

This cycle of relationship and healing just keeps rolling along, contributing to sustainability. In fact, we have a saying: “Sustainability is a by-product of quality.” And that is how avoidable blindness is reduced in an entire district – people within reach of the hospital have the opportunity to get the help they need, and blindness that can be treated or prevented becomes a thing of the past.

At Operation Eyesight, we are also working to eliminate the backlog of people who are blind from cataracts. But our commitment to the poor of India and Africa requires that we take their needs and fears seriously.

That tribal woman I mentioned? She can see now. And she says thanks.

Learn more about the difference our Community Health Workers are making!