Seva Canada believes that development must advance human dignity, both for local eye care professionals and the very poor people they serve. Over the past 40 years, we have supported and collaborated on many research studies to understand both the frequency and causes of eye diseases and how to improve health systems to reach populations in need. As a result of these studies, we have adapted our programs to address evolving eye care needs. More and more, these studies are designed, conducted and reported by a worldwide network of young, bright researchers – many of whom are women, and all of whom live in low- and middle-income countries
For more than a decade, Seva Canada has mentored Priya Reddy, who has grown from an enthusiastic program administrator at Aravind Eye Care System, to an independent research colleague, to a Fulbright Scholar, to a PhD candidate at the University of Belfast. She has joined Seva Canada and will begin a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of British Columbia next year, supervised by Seva Canada’s program directors. All her research has focused on improving the delivery of eye care services to poor and marginalized populations in India, Nepal and Africa, with a particular focus on the needs of girls, who make up two-thirds of all children living with treatable blindness.
More recently Seva Canada began supporting Parami Dhakwa, a program manager at Seva Nepal, to build her research skills and to learn how to teach those skills to Seva-supported eye care programs in Nepal. With her assistance, an eye care hospital in eastern Nepal is studying improvements to its referral system for diabetic patients from general hospitals to the eye hospital. Parami is also supporting a hospital in central Nepal to study interventions to improve schoolchildren’s compliance wearing glasses and a hospital in western Nepal that is studying improvements in the referral system from Community Eye Centres to the base hospital.
Dr. Manisha Shrestha, a pediatric ophthalmologist who completed a Pediatric Fellowship at the University of British Columbia, has taken a leadership role in her eye care hospital in central Nepal to study health system interventions to increase the proportion of children that return for follow-up visits after surgery, particularly following cataract surgery. Follow-up care, often for months or years, is critical to obtaining a good visual outcome in children. The goal is to build an institution-based research team capable of defining and answering a series of operational research questions designed to improve the quality and efficiency of pediatric care.
Elizabeth Kishiki, with the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO) is collaborating with Seva Canada on studies testing interventions in Tanzania and Madagascar to increase use of pediatric services, particularly by girls. Complex, ethnically-sensitive and persistent interventions are needed to persuade families to accept available services for girls, even when they are free of cost.
Less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women and, in low-income countries, the percentage is far less. Seva Canada has actively engaged, recruited and mentored women in research because a gendered approach to research increases the range of interventions and breakthroughs that come from looking at problems from different perspectives.