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A Clear Vision for Pakistan
New Seva partnership brings eye care to rural area
When Pakistani health professionals wanted to bring vision care to the remote area of Takht Bhai, near Peshawar at the Pakistan-Afghan boarder, they called Seva Foundation for guidance and assistance. Their goal: Establish easily accessible, high quality, low cost vision services in communities where eye care programs have never existed before.
Now with support from Seva's Center for Innovation in Eye Care, their dream has been realized. In June, the new Community Vision Center at Takht Bhai opened for business — marking the first time Seva has extended its reach to Pakistan.
In the rural farming community of Takht Bhai, an estimated 23,000 people need glasses, and 10,000 people are functionally blind, including 5,000 who need cataract surgery. Yet few can travel to the nearest hospital, an hour’s drive away in Mardan, and few can afford the cost of care. With the opening of the new Community Vision Center, these needs can now be addressed.
Approaching Seva for Support
Seva's newest partner is a nonprofit organization called CHEF International (Comprehensive Health and Education Forum), whose mission is to provide comprehensive health and education services in support of the poor and disabled.
CHEF is working in close collaboration with the Pakistan Institute of Community Ophthalmology (PICO), a seasoned group of academic and research professionals who do educational and training work related to eye care, but who have not managed eye care service clinics in rural areas.
“Knowing of Seva’s expertise in establishing sustainable community-based eye care programs in India, Asia and Africa, CHEF approached us for help with design and early funding,” says Dr. Suzanne Gilbert, Director of Seva's Center for Innovation in Eye Care. "In addition to initial financial support, we're collaborating with CHEF to plan for the project’s managerial and technical viability."
CHEF will implement, monitor and evaluate the Community Vision Center in Takht Bhai, with a three-year timetable to achieve a sustainable program targeting 8,500 patients in the third year.
Community Outreach and Sustainability
Opening the new Community Vision Center is an exciting development, but that's just one part of the work involved in bringing quality eye care to this remote, rural area. “Just as we do in most of the eye care programs Seva supports around the world,” explains Suzanne, “this new Community Vision Center in Pakistan features a dynamic outreach program that sends trained health workers out into the surrounding population to conduct screening exams and to educate people about the eye care services available to them. Without an active outreach component, the people who are most in need of this kind of care, particularly women and girls, will never know about the clinic or be able to access its services."
To discover options for their vision center, CHEF staff visited Aravind Eye Hospitals in India, with Seva's support. They joined workshops sponsored by Seva and Aravind, outlining the strategies used in successful community ophthalmology programs around the world.
“This is a wonderful example of Seva's partnership model, where we link people who want to do good work with others who are a few steps ahead,” says Suzanne. “It's a way to really fast-track the process.”
In addition to community outreach strategies, the Pakistani staff also learned about sustainable business structures for their new clinic. For example, the new Community Vision Center in Takht Bhai features an optical shop with fashionable frames that will appeal to patients who can afford to pay for their glasses — a real convenience compared with traveling to the optical shop in Mardan, an hour away. Profits from the optical sales will then be used to help subsidize the cost of caring for those without the means to pay. Using this approach, CHEF expects the Community Vision Center to increase patient volume and achieve financial sustainability in three years.