The 29 February marked the official final day of activities for the three-year East Asia Vision Program (EAVP) funded under the Australian Government’s Avoidable Blindness Initiative (ABI) and implemented by the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium.
Six years ago several Vision 2020 Australia members came together to form the Global Consortium. The Consortium would go on to demonstrate how coordinated and collaborative programs are effective ways of contributing to achieving global commitments to reduce avoidable blindness and vision loss by 25 per cent by 2020, as outlined in the WHO Global Action Plan: Universal Eye Health.
Since 2009 the Consortium has worked in seven countries in Asia and the Pacific.
The EAVP itself has focused on strengthening capacity for eye health workforce development in Cambodia, Timor Leste and Vietnam.
The EAVP builds on the achievements in previous phases of Avoidable Blindness Initiative programs and other eye health sector developments. Investments were made in areas where catalytic change could be demonstrated—with training institutions and trainers, not just service providers.
Some of the key outcomes we are proud to have supported or contributed to include:
- The Vietnam Australia Vision Support Program, a pilot initiative implemented by the Consortium in Vietnam that sought to adapt and develop a model of rolling out district and provincial level eye care services in the Vietnam public eye health sector context. The pilot was completed in 2012 and in 2015, the Ministry of Health specifically requested Consortium members to present the results of the pilot at the National Ophthalmology Conference as part of its support and push for national roll out of the service delivery model.
- The inclusion of eye health in the draft Cambodian National School Health Policy and the corresponding School Screening Guidelines. The School Health Policy was recently elevated to be a responsibility across multiple ministries and will be signed off by the Cambodian Prime Minister.
- The first Optometry Bachelor degree which has been accredited in Vietnam through work undertaken during the EAVP. Sector stakeholders and Consortium members are now pursuing a coordinated and collaborative advocacy strategy for professional recognition of Optometry as a profession by the Vietnam Ministry of Health.
- Developing, piloting and adopting existing and new curricula and training modules. Programs developed include a Postgraduate Diploma of Ophthalmology in Timor Leste, Ophthalmic Nurse training program in Cambodia, and the first accredited Bachelor of Optometry training program in Vietnam.
- The first formalised continuing professional development system in the Cambodian health sector established for eye health workers under the auspices of the Cambodian Ophthalmological Society (COS). The COS itself has been supported through the EAVP to develop and grow as a representative body that can help drive ongoing developments in eye health in Cambodia.
- Upgrading and equipping training institutions with facilities including wet labs, and developing skills of ophthalmic faculty in clinical areas and contemporary teaching and assessment methodology in Vietnam, Cambodia and Timor Leste.
- Reducing Timor Leste’s reliance on international expertise with the certification of Orientation and Mobility Trainers.
Bringing the Australian eye health sector together to implement joint eye health and development programs in the region has not always been easy but the results and ongoing impacts of what has been achieved are significant. While the EAVP may have ended, the Consortium and other Vision 2020 Australia members have clearly communicated that working with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) to support coordinated and collaborative action in line with our national partner priorities and eye health plans remains a priority.