Community eye health program delivers care to thousands
Alakh Nayan Mandir Eye Institute
Udaipur District, Rajasthan State
It’s hard to imagine that low population density is a problem for one of our hospital partners in India, the world’s second most populated country, but it is for Alahk Nayan Mandir Eye Institute. Alakh Nayan Mandir is an advanced secondary care centre that began its partnership with Operation Eyesight in 2011. The Institute was founded in 1997 to serve the underprivileged in Udaipur and surrounding districts.
Alakh Nayan Mandir is located in the district of Udaipur in the southern state of Rajasthan, which has a population of over 68 million. However, the area surrounding the eye institute is hilly, sparsely populated and difficult to get around due to limited public transportation options.
Blindness is prevalent because of poor health-seeking behavior, vitamin A deficiency, poor hygiene and sanitation, low rates of immunization, significant malnutrition among mothers and children under five, and lack of medicines and equipment for treating common eye diseases. Although there are many health centres and sub-centres of varying capacity throughout the region, none have trained personnel who can provide eye care services.
In 2011, Alakh Nayan Mandir and Operation Eyesight began a four-year hospital-based community eye health program to deal with these challenges. This program serves almost 200,000 people in an area comprised of 258 villages. The program brings eye health care directly to communities in the region and helps integrate primary eye care into primary health care. The target area is made up of more than 250 villages with a large tribal population. While there are a number of health centres, they have no personnel trained to provide eye care services. Blindness is prevalent among the region’s people because of poor eye health-seeking behaviour, vitamin A deficiency, lack of access to clean and safe water, poor personal hygiene and environmental sanitation, low immunization rates, high rates of malnutrition among mothers and children and a lack of medicines for common eye diseases.
The project team has received extensive training and conducted a door-to-door survey to assess the eye health needs of the region’s residents. The community is excited that eye care is finally available to them. The project provides the highest quality medical care possible, promotes available community-based services and works to integrate eye care into primary health care. The goal is to create a model that enables community members to serve in their own district while preventing and treating avoidable blindness for years to come.