A Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness—RAAB or a “Rapid”—gives a quick estimate of the prevalence of “avoidable blindness” in a region. It is not as detailed or expensive as a population-based survey, but is statistically robust and gives reliable data for planning. So, in resource-constrained eye care settings, RAABs are the preferred first mode of prevalence data collection at the district level. The risk is that we focus only on the RAAB itself, as a data collection tool.
The main point of a RAAB for me is to look beyond the RAAB itself; as a stand-alone activity it is of limited interest. What’s important, and what makes it a more powerful tool, is how the RAAB is a planning tool to help inform and improve eye care services that address the real needs of the population. This means that the Ministry of Health needs to be supportive of the study. An integral element of the proposal, whether a part of the funding ask or not, is a planning workshop to review the eye care plan.
Health planners are much more likely to be influenced by the actual conditions in their population than by generic estimates of visual impairment. Amongst other data, RAABs show where the people with visual impairments are living – are the services accessible to them? It shows the main reasons people are reluctant to seek surgery – what steps can address this? It also shows the outcomes of cataract surgeries – what does this mean for training?
Put into this sort of context, a RAAB proposal becomes a much more compelling cause for support. For me, it’s all about the purpose and the outcome rather than the actual study itself.
The Maldives and East Timor RAABs reflects the principles I discuss above:
- the RAAB teams comprised of local and IAPB member staff (with Yuddha Sapkota as the RAAB-certified expert);
- the process involved the local ministry of health and the WHO country office staff from the beginning;
- the data produced was handed over to the ministry in a formal ceremony which articulated the next steps forward.
- the next steps included updating or creating a national plan, which reflected the objectives of the Global Action Plan.
Fundraising for RAABs
This focus has an extra benefit. Funding for prevalence studies can be a challenge (as there are many requests), and this approach increases our chances of success. Of course, recent RAABs can also help provide you a strong case for support in bids for service delivery. A full list and information on RAABs are here: http://raabdata.info/about-the-raab-repository/