Shaping a Replicable Community-Based Eye Care Development Programme
Resource type: Grantee Story
Le Hai Huyen My, 14, of Da Nang City, is among the youngest of thousands of Vietnamese people who have a much brighter future, due to the collaborative work of two Atlantic grantees, the Fred Hollows Foundation (FHF) and the Da Nang Eye Hospital.
In 2005, My, an excellent student, lost sight in her right eye. “The worst thing about my blindness was the fear. I didn’t know what was happening and I was worried about becoming completely blind,” she said.
Her dad, Le Quoc Hai, took her to Da Nang Eye Hospital, in hopes that his daughter would see again. The diagnosis was cataract with uveitis, which is curable with a $200 surgery. While My’s dad, a bus driver who makes only $3 a day, was trying to borrow the money for the procedure, the doctors told him about a free cataract surgery programme for the poor, funded by the Hospital’s partner, The Fred Hollows Foundation, an organisation dedicated to blindness prevention in developing countries. Fred Hollows agreed to cover My’s operation.
Avoidable blindness, primarily from cataracts, is a major public health problem in Viet Nam. Many of the poor with cataracts — primarily in rural areas — don’t know they have a treatable condition.
In two years, FHF has upgraded and equipped three eye facilities in three central provinces with a total population of five million people. The Binh Dinh Eye Clinic now meets the criteria to become one of three eye hospitals in the Central and Highlands provinces. The Foundation has trained six surgeons who have conducted 6,000 cataract operations.
FHF’s community-based vision care network includes 2,500 volunteer village health workers trained to identify eye problems. In addition, Fred Hollows staff has developed effective campaigns to raise awareness of blindness prevention, treatment services and to increase confidence in eye doctors.
“We still have a lot of people in darkness because they cannot access the service. Our most significant accomplishment is shaping a community-based eye care development programme that we can replicate in other provinces,” said Dr. Huynh Tan Phuc, FHF Country Manager in Viet Nam. Plans for expanding to other areas are in process.