Advocating for Enhanced Eye Health Services in Rural Paraguay: Bridging the Coverage Gap
Fundación Visión’s commitment to scientific advocacy has laid the foundation for a transformative change in eye health services in Paraguay. Their work is a testament to the power of compassion, evidence, and proactive engagement in creating a sustainable impact. As we continue to advocate for increased coverage in eye health services, Librado’s story and Fundación Visión’s strategies are an inspiration for others. This relates back to our “Advocacy for Eye Health-A beginner’s guide” where in a unique situation of low demand was transformed through simple yet effective messages and involvement of stakeholders (media and community) to significantly increase the demand of eye care services of the region.
Prevalence of blindness was reported to be 0.40% in Paraguay in 2020 according to VLEG. 1 The importance of access to eye health services is instrumental in ensuring an individual’s overall well-being and quality of life. Unfortunately, many regions, including Paraguay, face challenges in providing adequate eye health services, particularly to vulnerable populations residing in rural areas. In Paraguay, the reality of eye health is like other countries in the region, where unfortunately services are inadequate for those who need it the most.
According to recent statistics, only 24% of the Paraguayan population has access to healthcare services, leaving the majority dependent on the limited public services available. The situation is further exacerbated by the presence of only two highly complex hospitals, where the burden of eye health services falls. Meanwhile, the private sector offers services at exorbitant costs, making them unattainable for a significant portion of the population. Amidst this disparity, foundations like Fundación Visión step up to offer services at social costs, becoming a ray of hope for more than 70% of Paraguay’s population.
Fundación Visión is making a significant impact on eye health in Paraguay through public-private partnership with the Ministry of Public Health and has successfully covered 60% of cataract surgeries performed in the country. These campaigns not only focus on providing medical care but also on effectively communicating their message to the communities they serve, in their native language.
The story of Librado a 41-year-old also known as the town’s blind man, who got a surgery in one of these campaigns. After a successful surgery, the good outcome created a remarkable impact due to his popularity in the area. This inspiring story was shared in various media, and the word travelled the entire town. Subsequently more people, as many as twice the number, were drawn to the next Campaign as they were motivated by the story of Librado to seek treatment.
The emotional and compelling story of Librado acted as a catalyst, inspiring others in the community to avail health-care services. The video, showcasing Librado’s transformation, spread across the town. Consequently, in the subsequent campaign, the number of participants doubled, with people witnessing firsthand that the possibility of improved vision was real. The transformative power of Librado’s journey extended beyond his life, creating a wave of interest and participation among the townspeople who knew him.
To ensure the continued success of advocacy for enhanced eye health services, Fundación Visión offers invaluable recommendations. These data-driven strategies have proven effective in advocating for visual health and expanding eye health coverage:
- Awareness: Inform widely about the places where you can access surgeries at an affordable cost.
- Quality of Services: Demonstrate the safety of the procedure and ensure that the surgeries are of quality and that they will have good results.
- Spread the word: Disseminate success stories and what this generates in their lives.
- Engaging communities: Go out there to find the patients and do not wait for them to come to you, but this also means going out to look for them in communities in need.
Click here to watch the video.
Authored by Olivia Gomez, Fundacion Vision