Operation Eyesight’s commitment to sustainable community-based eye care distinguishes us from the crowd. It is an innovation that, if adopted by other eye care organizations, may well be the key to eliminating avoidable blindness around the world.
“In the poorest regions, people know that losing their sight is like a death sentence. We have an opportunity to actually stamp out that threat for millions of people,” said Pat Ferguson, our former president and CEO.
Pat also served as a trustee of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), the organization that coordinates activities among dozens of eye care organizations from many different countries. This active participation in the international eye care community has given us an alliance with the best minds in the field (leading to the organization’s current approach) as well as a bird’s-eye view of what’s working and what isn’t among various approaches to eye care.
Our adoption of a broad-based community development approach has been endorsed by international leaders like Dr. Nag Rao, former president of IAPB, and by Dr. Daniel Etya’ale, executive director of the African region of IAPB.
Our experience clearly demonstrates that sustainable development is the key. True sustainable development means external support is no longer necessary. It is essential to optimize every aspect of the hospital and link it to the community.
Community-based eye care integrates high-quality clinical activities with community outreach that encourages healthy behaviour. For many years, Operation Eyesight supported excellent hospital programs focused on treatment, as well as community programs focused on blindness prevention, but these were distinct. Over the last two years, however, we have helped partner hospitals in India enhance their facilities and treatment programs, with outstanding results. As they reached into the surrounding communities in new ways, research has shown a dramatic increase in outputs, along with a significant decrease in eye problems throughout the district.
Every community where we work – in India or Africa – will provide eye care services from primary linked right up through secondary and tertiary. Every hospital we support will be linked to the surrounding community.
The goal of eliminating avoidable blindness isn’t going to happen until every threatened country has a health care system that includes eye care – a system they can sustain without foreign support. And that is exactly what our organization is working toward.