The East, Central and Southern African Health Community (ECSA-HC) is an inter-governmental health organization that fosters and promotes regional cooperation in health among member states. Member states of the ECSA HC are Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The ECSA-HC, with support of College of Ophthalmologists of East Central and Southern Africa (COECSA) and IABP established the ECSA-HC expert committee on eye health in 2018, in an effort to raise and sustain the eye health agenda high at the national and regional.
In June 2019, the ECSA-HC expert committee on eye health held its second annual meeting with the objective of presenting best and promising practices on eye health to the 12th Best Practices Forum and developing specific recommendations on eye health care in the ECSA region for submission to the ECSA Health Ministers Conference through the Directors Joint Consultative Committee (DJCC).
Recognizing the high burden of eye diseases, inadequate prioritization of eye health care and the urgent need for action, the ECSA-HC expert committee on eye health was provide an opportunity at the 12th ECSA BPF to systematically raise these issues.
A specific sub-theme; Equity and Access to Eye Healthcare in the ECSA Region at the BPF was dedicated for deliberations on eye health in the region. The members of the Experts committee and other eye health practitioners made presentations that informed the audience on a number of eye health challenges, but also some of the responses that can increase equity and quality in the provision of eye health services in the region.
Amongst the presentations were the use of mobile technologies to enhance eye health care coverage, strengthening capacity development to manage eye health at primary health care level, and best practices on addressing issues of neonatal and child health care through strengthening systems for managing Retinopathy of Prematurity and Retinoblastoma across health care levels.
Based on these practices, the following recommendations were made by the 12th BFP to the DJCC to request through the health ministers the ECSA-HC member states to:
- Promote integrated approaches to the prevention, control and management of eye health conditions at all level, with emphasis to primary health care.
- Optimise the human resources for eye health (HREH) at all healthcare levels, by strengthening the quantity and quality of training and equitable distribution of HREH across the country.
- Include comprehensive eye health indicators in the routine health information reporting at all levels at country and ensure inclusion and appropriate reporting to the regional level.
- Promote generation and use of evidence in policy and practice to improve eye health.
In addition, the BPF made recommendations to DJCC to request Health Ministers Conference to direct ECSA HC secretariat to:
- Facilitate inclusion of eye health into national and regional agenda;
- Facilitate provision of required technical support for the member states to implement the above recommendation.
- Support member states to disseminate evidence and scale-up best practices and success stories.
The committee and ECSA-HC Secretariat need to mobilize resources to support the region to realize the above recommendations. For example, there is need to assess and systematically document the eye health care aspects in the essential/basic health service packages and the depth of eye health care component in the pre-service curriculum of relevant health care cadres. This will be instrumental for advocacy in term of budget re-prioritization for health and reviewing training curriculum to ensure health care is adequately covered in the pre-service trainings.