Community eye health care project launched at Embangweni

We are very excited to share with you that Embangweni Mission Hospital is launching a community eye health care project for its catchment area, which includes around 100,000 people. The project is centred on the hospital’s eye clinic, while the wider area is served by five remote community clinics. But importantly, it is the involvement of local community leaders that will help to make the project a success.

Accordingly, preparatory stages of the project have concentrated on the ‘sensitisation’ and training of village chiefs, church leaders, school teachers, primary healthcare staff, and voluntary healthcare workers.

Local community leaders here being informed about eye health and how they can help the people they serve.
A group of local pastors after a day’s training together with eye clinic staff (in the red T-shirts)

The response from these training sessions has been very encouraging, with many attendees pleased to have a better understanding of eye health and gratified to know that optical and medical eye care services are available at the hospital for the people they serve.

The next stage involves screening programmes in local communities and schools.

Our thanks go to many friends in the UK whose generosity has made the launch of this programme possible. This is also an opportunity to give a big hand to the clinical staff who have worked hard to get their qualifications and build up the clinic over recent years, and who will be at the centre of this health programme as it rolls out.

An important part of the sensitisation programme has been to inform the general public of the importance of eye health care through general publicity. Many flyers have been distributed, banners are displayed at the hospital, and importantly signs directing people to the eye clinic, like the one just completed here by the local signwriter.

New staff at Livingstonia eye clinic

The eye clinic at David Gordon Memorial Hospital (DGMH) is now staffed by an optometrist and an optometry technician. The optometrist is Lael Phiri, and Sandress Jere is the optometry technician. We send our very best wishes to them as they get into the work at Livingstonia.

New staff at DGMH eye clinic: Lael Phiri (left) and Sandress Jere.
Sandress treating patients in the eye clinic.

Exploring how people understand sight problems, medical provision and more at Livingstonia

As part of the ongoing community eye health programme (see previous posts), the DGMH community health team identified the need to assess the local population’s knowledge, attitudes, practices and perceived barriers to personal eye care and access to the healthcare services provided by the hospital. To do this, they have partnered with the Public Health Department at the nearby University of Livingstonia.

They are now gathering demographic and health-related data from a sample of the local population using questionnaires. KoBoToolbox – a free and open-source web-based app – is being used to record and crunch the data. Stored remotely, the data can be accessed and analysed online from any device.

In the picture above, DGMH clinic and community staff receive training to use the questionnaire app in the field.

Valuable information is being gathered (by workers such as the university intern, above left), already revealing local understandings and misunderstandings about eye health and sickness, as well as access to, and cost of healthcare services.

For instance, the screenshot from the app (above) shows how people have responded to a question about ” red-eye”, a common condition caused by infection or allergy.

In the results shown here (above), a significant number of people indicate that they are wary of seeking eye care services. Information such as this suggests that investment in clinical facilities – without appreciating and addressing the fears and misunderstandings that exist in a population – will not be as effective as hoped for.

The survey will be ongoing and will be able to track changes in knowledge and attitudes as the community eye health programme continues.

Note: the data shown in these graphics reflect early work in the project; much more has yet to be gathered from the catchment area.

Community eye health programme progresses at Livingstonia

A comprehensive programme to promote eye health care in the community at David Gordon Memorial Hospital (DGMH), Livingstonia (see earlier post for info) is reported to be progressing well. The programme includes re-opening the eye clinic at the hospital, and the provision of eye health screening in remote clinics and schools within the DGMH catchment area (population 130,000). This has involved 51 healthcare assistants and clinicians, 27 teachers, and 50 community volunteers, and covered five remote health clinics and 27 schools. 

The remote health clinics are very remote(!) accessible only by rough tracks which become extra difficult in the rainy season. The Raven Trust supported the purchase of two suitable motorbikes so health workers can reach the most remote communities.

February 2022 Newslink issued

Our latest email newsletter ‘Newslink’ has just been issued and you can see it  here (as well as previous editions). You can sign up to our Newslink mailing list here. This newsletter is administered through the MailChimp system, and you can cancel your subscription at any time.