In the second half of 2015 Orbis Africa enhanced a strategy to work with Zambia’s community healthcare workers to increase the access to, and uptake of, eye surgery. The strategy was based on a partnership with neighbourhood health committees across North-Western Province. This group of rural healthcare workers, who identified blindness as one of their greatest challenges, were trained in primary eye care and cataract identification.
Trained community healthcare workers moving from home to home is proving to be an effective approach to reaching rural populations. This strategy, which has ensured greater community buy-in and ownership, is achieving mass cataract mobilisation and community awareness. Trained rural health care workers conduct door to door cataract identification and provide onsite basic eye screening. Potential cataract patients are referred to the nearest rural health facility for further screening by the ophthalmic clinical officer. All operable cataracts are immediately scheduled for surgery in close collaboration with the surgical team.
Community involvement has also strengthened the referral pathway from community through to district and regional healthcare. Strengthening the capacity of community healthcare workers in primary eye care is not only increasing surgical uptake but has led to more appropriate management and referral, with minor eye conditions being treated at rural health facilities and more complicated cases being referred upwards.