In low-income settings, lack of awareness, accessibility and willingness to accept care remain major barriers to receiving eye care, even when high-quality clinical services are readily available. This year, Seva Cambodia, Seva’s locally-run Cambodian office, implemented a new strategy to strengthen their existing field worker program and increase the number of patients seen, referred and receiving eye care services.
The current community outreach program trains local personnel as field workers who travel from village to village by motorbike, to identify those in need of treatment and facilitate their transportation to outreach screening camps and hospital eye units. Field worker activities, while effective at increasing the number of people attending screening camps, were not as effective at persuading people to attend the hospital eye unit. Field workers lacked adequate integration with one of the most powerful tools available: connection with prominent, trusted people in the community such as the Village Leader.
This year, the community program added an educational intervention that engaged with influential community members through a series of eye health awareness sessions. After only 4 months, the number of people screened at eye camps and referred for care at the Eye Unit in the Banteay Meanchey Hospital increased by 370%, from an average of 100 patients per month to over 400, and the number of patients undergoing cataract surgery rose by 515%, from an average of 13 surgeries per month to over 80. Through a very modest investment in community engagement, Seva Cambodia ensure thousands more people will achieve healthy vision and a much more productive and happier life.