In Papua New Guinea, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are afflicted by various eye conditions ranging from cataract to a need for spectacles. For instance the prevalence of vision impairment for people 50 years and older is 29.2 per cent, with the major causes being the need for spectacles (45.7%) and cataract (35.2%). As well as placing considerable strain on individuals, there is a significant economic burden. Further, there are currently only 14 ophthalmologists in PNG, where the World Health Organization guidelines suggest there should be 72.
PNG Eye Care, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Vision 2020 Australia and the University of Papua New Guinea are proud to announce the launch of the Lions National Resource Centre for Eye Health on Thursday 7 May.
The Lions National Resource Centre will significantly lift the profile of Eye Health in PNG and of the Medical School of the University of Papua New Guinea; encourage and invigorate the training and practise of ophthalmology and provide a model for public/private funding partnerships.
During 2014, Lions Clubs Australia approached Vision 2020 Australia for ideas to develop a funding proposal for Papua New Guinea. Led by Vision 2020 member, Brien Holden Vision Institute–the major support organisation behind PNG Eye Care–extensive consultations were held with stakeholders, including all members of the National Prevention of Blindness Committee (NPBL), UPNG, the Department Of Health and ophthalmologists. As a result, it was decided that the best way to support eye health in PNG, was to develop a National Resource Centre for Eye Health (NRC) at UPNG.
This exciting initiative is aimed at addressing the status-quo. An existing building at UPNG Taurama Campus will be renovated to international standard. Once fully operational, towards the end of 2015, the NRC will operate to centrally coordinate:
- Training of ophthalmologists
- Host education and professional development for local eye care personnel including nurses and spectacle technicians
- Training of eye care personnel in dispensing and supply of low cost spectacles.
- Training of all medical students in eye care and eye health awareness.
- Health promotion activities to increase awareness of eye health in PNG.
- Capacity development of the NPBL and support it in its national level advocacy
In coordination with this project, CBM PNG, a member of the National Prevention of Blindness Committee, has been working with UPNG to develop and fund a position for an ophthalmology lecturer at UPNG. This development will further add to the strength of the project and to the profile of eye health in PNG.
Thank you to the key stakeholders for making this project a reality, including Vision 2020 Australia, Brien Holden Vision Institute, CBM, National Prevention of Blindness Committee, UPNG and the Department of Health. Special thanks to Lions PNG and Australia for supporting the project application and for securing funding through a Lions Club International Foundation Sight First Grant.
Samuel Koim, Senior Manager, PNG Eye Care, firstname.lastname@example.org