Going door to door to end blindness

Written by Admin, published on September 27, 2016 Donate Today
A toddler is screened for eye issues as his mother watches. Women and children suffer from blinding trachoma at a higher rate than men.

There are lots of causes of avoidable blindness. One that’s especially common in the countries where we work is what’s known as “poor eye health-seeking behaviour.” It refers to people who have problems with their eyes, but don’t seek medical attention. We’ve learned there are a lot of reasons for this, including a lack of awareness that help is available, myths or superstitions about eyesight and an inability to pay for services or travel to a clinic.

Community health workers in Uttar Pradesh, India map out their strategy to visit each household in each cluster.
Community health workers in Uttar Pradesh, India map out their strategy to visit each household in each cluster.

This behaviour is a major barrier to eliminating avoidable blindness in developing countries. That’s why we’ve adopted a community-based approach, part of which is the recruitment and training of local community health workers, who are often women and often volunteers. While these women can diagnose basic eye problems and refer people to an appropriate level of care, one of their primary jobs is conducting door-to-door surveys.

Why are these surveys important? Well, our partners conduct them before they even begin working in a region. Community health workers return multiple times to ensure that everyone in an area is screened for eye problems. Then, working with community leaders, our partners create and tailor an approach for action. The health workers visit every household that has a blind or visually impaired person (multiple times if necessary) to help reassure patients and their families and make sure they get the care they need to protect or restore their sight!

In India, this approach has already helped us completely eliminate avoidable blindness in 66 villages by the end of 2015. And many more communities are still to come! We’re the only organization in India doing door-to-door surveys to end avoidable blindness.

A community health worker performs an eye exam on a woman in India. In 2015, we had 42 community eye health programs in India, so scenes like this are being repeated every day across this huge and diverse country!

In Zambia, in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing program and the Ministry of Health, we’re planning door-to-door surveys in three shanty towns in the capital city, Lusaka. These surveys are expected to cover about 450,000 individuals in 90,000 households, with the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness in all of them.

In Kenya, we’re part of the Kenya Trachoma Elimination Program funded by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. To eliminate blinding trachoma, we work with village elders and local administrators to map villages. Armed with a list of every home, volunteer health workers make sure that every member of every household is screened for trachoma and treated if necessary.

These are just a few ways that going door-to-door can eliminate blindness… and thanks to our donors’ support and our innovative and dedicated teams, we won’t give up until all the world can see!

You can help us reach as many households as possible. Please consider donating to our community outreach program today.