An eye health project in north-west Pakistan has increased the number of women accessing cataract surgery in the region.
The project, ‘A new vision for eye health in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province,’ has trained health workers to ensure eye conditions are detected and treated early, particularly in women.
Before the project started in early 2016, the region had limited primary eye healthcare and there was a lack of awareness of the importance of seeking eye health services. This meant people suffering from eye problems visited health facilities only when their condition had substantially worsened.
To increase the availability of eye screening services at the primary level, the project has trained Lady Health Workers to screen patients and refer them to basic health units if they need further examination and treatment. This extensive network of female community health workers provides these services to local communities, with the workers visiting individual households. This has helped to increase the number of women being treated. Since the start of the community-level screenings, Lady Health Workers have screened more than 122,500 people in four districts, with 74 per cent of those being women.
The training has also meant, for the first time in the project area, eye screenings are included in primary healthcare training in the public health system. Medical officers (MOs) and medical technicians (MTs), non-eyecare staff who work at the basic health units have also been trained and along with the Lady Health Workers, received screening kits, training manuals and referral slips to undertake community eye screenings.
At basic health units, 53 per cent of patients screened by primary healthcare service providers (MOs and MTs) are women and the number of cataract surgical services carried out on women has increased from 48 per cent in 2016 to 51 per cent in 2017.
As the project continues, it aims to ensure eye healthcare is easily accessible for all members of the community, particularly women.
Sightsavers is carrying out the ‘A new vision for eye health in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’ in partnership with the Fred Hollows Foundation and the Provincial Comprehensive Eye Care Cell/PICO.
This post was written by Itfaq Khaliq Khan from Sightsavers’ Pakistan country office and Khurram Shahzad from the Fred Hollows Foundation.