Collaborating with local community leaders in Cambodia has allowed Seva to reach more people in need and ensure they are able to get the eye care services they need. In order to reach patients in remote areas, Seva Foundation trains and deploys Community Field Workers (CFWs) who travel to communities across five provinces to screen and refer patients to the nearest hospital equipped with an eye unit. A key part of the CFWs’ success is their ability to work with local leaders to schedule and publicize screenings and increase the community’s awareness about general eye health and available eye care services in the province.
Every day, Seva’s CFWs conduct screenings in two communities – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Prior to scheduling these community-based screenings, the CFWs first meet with local commune and village leaders to discuss the purpose and benefit of holding a screening in their community. With support from these local leaders, the CFWs gain access to communities where they otherwise might not have had any ties and can begin to build trust with the community leaders and members. The local leaders are also critical in publicizing the screenings so the CFWs can reach more people, providing guidance to CFWs on local beliefs that may impact a patient’s decision to seek care, and sharing information about general eye health with their communities.
In November 2018, Seva conducted its first Eye Health Awareness Session (EHAS) specifically aimed at educating local community leaders. The first session alone gathered 324 commune leaders, village leaders, health center staff, and the commune committee for women and children. The main purpose of the EHAS is to educate local leaders on the causes of blindness, prevention, treatment, and available services so that they may share the information with their own communities. The training also allowed the leaders to learn from one another by sharing how they had worked with CFWs in the past to have more successful screenings in their communities. By the end of the session, community leaders were well-informed about the services and support Seva’s CFWs provide as well as the main barriers that prevent people from seeking care. After the training, the community leaders put eye health as a priority discussion point during their regular monthly meetings. They will also make an announcement about the importance of eye care services and service availability during their biannual community forum.
Engaging with local community leaders has allowed the CFWs to not only reach more people in need but to also cultivate relationships with influential local leaders. By sharing the information they learned during the EHAS, these leaders have the power to help their community members overcome barriers to accessing eye care. Armed with knowledge about eye health and service availability, the leaders can share accurate information on the cost of eye care services, assuage people’s fear of surgery, or arrange for a caretaker so an elderly patient can travel to the eye unit.
Author name – Vann Ratana
Author email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Author job title – Program Director, Seva Cambodia
Author name – Roshan Bista
Author email – email@example.com
Author job title – Program Coordinator, Seva Cambodia