It’s hard to believe that four years have passed since the Vision Initiative changed its approach to eye health promotion in Victoria.
Over the last four years, the Vision Initiative has:
Successfully implemented four pilot projects in local government areas of Darebin, Greater Geelong, Greater Shepparton and Latrobe. Interventions were tested to determine the best way to engage health providers in eye health but also to engage community on the importance of eye health and regular eye examinations.
Secured funding to implement a further eight local government area (LGA) projects from 2015-2019 following the success of the pilot projects.
Implemented four new LGA projects in Brimbank, Greater Dandenong, Swan Hill and Campaspe.
In total, the Vision Initiative has engaged over 75 optometry practices, 200 pharmacy practices and 300 GP practices in the eight LGAs.
In 2015 the Vision Initiative faced a particular challenge, almost as a result of its own success, best summarised by the question: “How do we continue to support our old project areas, while implementing activity in the four new areas? Do we have sufficient resources to do so?”
And so starts our discussion on ‘Sustainability’. It’s a word with many meanings, however in this context it’s simply the ability of the Vision Initiative to ensure that prior efforts made in old project areas are not wasted, and continue to reap rewards for the communities in which activity was implemented.
With a small team and funding constraints, this seemed like a daunting task. However, there is always something that can be done. By applying some basic program sustainability principles, such as planning, partnerships, program adaptations and communications, the Vision Initiative has been able to support new and old project areas concurrently.
Planning sustainability interventions was important to ensure that activity continued to be delivered in the old areas without impacting on the new areas. Interventions were prioritised, such as training and development, as they had a greater impact on change within the community. These priority interventions were then mapped out against new intervention plans. Where possible, interventions were aligned to minimise duplication of effort.
Partnerships continue to play a key role in delivering sustainable activity in old project areas. Capitalising on the relationships developed between local optometrists, primary health providers, local councils, Primary Care Partnerships (PCPs) and Primary Health Networks (PHNs) has enabled ongoing access to community members who can continue to raise awareness about the importance of eye health.
Partnerships at a state-level, such as the members of the Vision Initiative Steering Committee, also play a key role. Vision Initiative Steering Committee members continue to assist the Vision Initiative in implementing activity in old project areas, for example PCP training delivered to Latrobe organisations in conjunction with Vision Australia. We are also able to support ongoing member activity in the old project areas. For example, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) will launch their Aboriginal eye health resources at Rumbulara Aboriginal Cooperative in the Greater Shepparton area this World Sight Day, Thursday 13 October.
With limited funding the Vision Initiative has adapted the way it delivers some of its interventions in old project areas. Online health provider training is promoted to health professionals in these areas as opposed to face-to-face. This enables health providers, local councils and PCP member organisations to access training when required, particularly for staff unable to attend face-to-face training or for new staff members.
Communicating with health providers, local council, PCPs and PHNs in the old and new areas has continued to be a priority for the Vision Initiative.
Where possible, communications are developed to suit both old and new project area audiences to minimise duplication efforts.
Sharing evaluation results, distributing Vision Initiative newsletters and engaging over 600 health provider practices in the World Sight Day #snapforsight campaign are examples of how we continue to communicate with new and old project areas.
Not only do these activities remind health providers of training opportunities available to them, they also remind them of the key role they play in reducing avoidable blindness and vision loss in their own community.