Sightsavers, in association with ASHA workers, is working towards strengthening eye health care and education in Bhagalpur district of Bihar. It is one of the districts currently being covered by the Bihar government’s health strengthening programme.
Sightsavers’ experience has been that the mere existence of hospitals (government- or NGO-run) by itself does not generate the level of interest in eye health that is necessary to eliminate avoidable blindness in India. It’s equally important to provide additional support to (i) identify eye-related problems at the community level (ii) refer such cases to primary and secondary service facilities, and (iii) physically accompany patients for uptake of services.
Schemes in NRHM like Janani Suraksha Yojana where ASHA workers played a pivotal role in identification; referral and physical accompanying of pregnant women to hospitals/CHCs for child birth, and the incentive scheme to ASHA workers have helped improve institutional delivery across the country.
In June 2013, Sightsavers, along with one of its partners, LEPRA Society, had conducted a similar structure for ASHAs in the district of Bhagalpur. 126 ASHA workers were trained from Sabour block on primary eye health and cataract identification. States like Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan had arranged a reimbursement of 175/- to ASHA workers (for each cataract patient identified and accompanied for surgery). Unfortunately, as the government of Bihar had no such scheme, Sightsavers declared that it would also give ASHA workers 175/- for identifying and accompanying each patient to the hospital for cataract surgery, and assess the impact of the incentive to ASHA workers.
Happily, the training and incentive scheme received a phenomenal response. In the 5-month period prior to the scheme (January to May 2013), Bhagalpur District Hospital conducted only 4 cataract surgeries; but in the 17-day period after the scheme (25 June to 11 July), it conducted 33 surgeries, with 11 more cataract patients registering recently.
Commenting on this, RN Mohanty (CEO, Sightsavers India) said , “Looking at the enormous response, we would like to continue to work with ASHA workers and reach out to many more people.”
Sightsavers is a global development organisation working to eliminate avoidable blindness and to ensure that people who are irreversibly blind receive the support they need to lead lives of independence and dignity.
Sightsavers has been working in India since 1966 on eye health and has reached out to over 35 million people.
Today, we work with partner organisations across major states in India bringing eye healthcare, educational support, counselling, training and leadership development to visually impaired people in some of the least served areas of the country.
We work in a sustainable way to promote lasting change – by strengthening existing health systems, seeking to advocate with and influence governments and by demonstrating best practises. We network with like-minded organisations to enable exchange of ideas and to advocate for the rights of the disabled.
Sightsavers believes in promoting indigenous technologies in eye healthcare enabling a wider reach of health services in India. For more information log on to staging-sightsaverswww.sightsaversindia.in
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