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      Can we scale up a comprehensive school-based eye health programme in Zambia?

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          Abstract

          Background

          Globally, 19 million children have preventable vision impairment simply because refractive and eye health services are inaccessible to most of them. In Zambia, approximately 50,000 school children need spectacle provision. The School-based Eye Health Programme (SEHP) has been identified worldwide as a proven strategy to address childhood blindness. Given its great benefits, the Zambian government intends to scale up the programme. This scalability assessment aims to identify and evaluate the essential components of an effective SEHP, determine roles, assess existing capacities within user organisations, identify environmental facilitating and inhibiting factors, and estimate the minimum resources necessary for the scaling up and their proposed scale-up strategies.

          Methods

          Five elements (innovation, user organisation, resource team, environment, and strategies for horizontal and vertical scaling-up) were assessed guided by the ExpandNet-WHO Nine Steps for Developing a Scaling-Up Strategy. Literature review on proven strategies to reduce childhood blindness and the credibility of SEHP implemented in resource-limited settings, document review on the pilot project, questionnaires, and stakeholders’ interviews were conducted to collect data for this assessment. Subsequently, twenty questions in the Worksheets for Developing a Scaling-up Strategy were used to report the assessment outcome systematically.

          Results

          Additional components of SEHP incorporated in Zambia’s model enhanced the innovation’s credibility and relevance. The resource team was relatively competent in the pilot project, and the same team will be employed during the scaling-up. Potential change in political parties, the lack of supply chain, and unstable financial support were identified as inhibiting factors. The objectives of SEHP were aligned with the National Eye Health Strategic Plan 2017–2021, which supports the institutionalisation of the SEHP into the existing School Health and Nutrition Programme. For the pace of expansion, replicating SEHP to another district rather than a province will be more realistic.

          Conclusion

          Scaling up a comprehensive SEHP in Zambia is feasible if sufficient funding is available. Additionally, the pace must be adapted to the local context to ensure that every component within the SEHP is intact.

          Supplementary Information

          The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1186/s12913-022-08350-2.

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          Most cited references25

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          Global magnitude of visual impairment caused by uncorrected refractive errors in 2004.

          Estimates of the prevalence of visual impairment caused by uncorrected refractive errors in 2004 have been determined at regional and global levels for people aged 5 years and over from recent published and unpublished surveys. The estimates were based on the prevalence of visual acuity of less than 6/18 in the better eye with the currently available refractive correction that could be improved to equal to or better than 6/18 by refraction or pinhole. A total of 153 million people (range of uncertainty: 123 million to 184 million) are estimated to be visually impaired from uncorrected refractive errors, of whom eight million are blind. This cause of visual impairment has been overlooked in previous estimates that were based on best-corrected vision. Combined with the 161 million people visually impaired estimated in 2002 according to best-corrected vision, 314 million people are visually impaired from all causes: uncorrected refractive errors become the main cause of low vision and the second cause of blindness. Uncorrected refractive errors can hamper performance at school, reduce employability and productivity, and generally impair quality of life. Yet the correction of refractive errors with appropriate spectacles is among the most cost-effective interventions in eye health care. The results presented in this paper help to unearth a formerly hidden problem of public health dimensions and promote policy development and implementation, programmatic decision-making and corrective interventions, as well as stimulate research.
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            Effect of providing free glasses on children’s educational outcomes in China: cluster randomized controlled trial

            Objective To assess the effect of provision of free glasses on academic performance in rural Chinese children with myopia. Design Cluster randomized, investigator masked, controlled trial. Setting 252 primary schools in two prefectures in western China, 2012-13. Participants 3177 of 19 934 children in fourth and fifth grades (mean age 10.5 years) with visual acuity 6/12 with glasses. 3052 (96.0%) completed the study. Interventions Children were randomized by school (84 schools per arm) to one of three interventions at the beginning of the school year: prescription for glasses only (control group), vouchers for free glasses at a local facility, or free glasses provided in class. Main outcome measures Spectacle wear at endline examination and end of year score on a specially designed mathematics test, adjusted for baseline score and expressed in standard deviations. Results Among 3177 eligible children, 1036 (32.6%) were randomized to control, 988 (31.1%) to vouchers, and 1153 (36.3%) to free glasses in class. All eligible children would benefit from glasses, but only 15% wore them at baseline. At closeout glasses wear was 41% (observed) and 68% (self reported) in the free glasses group, and 26% (observed) and 37% (self reported) in the controls. Effect on test score was 0.11 SD (95% confidence interval 0.01 to 0.21) when the free glasses group was compared with the control group. The adjusted effect of providing free glasses (0.10, 0.002 to 0.19) was greater than parental education (0.03, −0.04 to 0.09) or family wealth (0.01, −0.06 to 0.08). This difference between groups was significant, but was smaller than the prespecified 0.20 SD difference that the study was powered to detect. Conclusions The provision of free glasses to Chinese children with myopia improves children’s performance on mathematics testing to a statistically significant degree, despite imperfect compliance, although the observed difference between groups was smaller than the study was originally designed to detect. Myopia is common and rarely corrected in this setting. Trial Registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN03252665.
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              Interventions to improve school-based eye-care services in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review

              Abstract Objective To review interventions improving eye-care services for schoolchildren in low- and middle-income countries. Methods We searched online databases (CINAHL, Embase®, ERIC, MEDLINE®, ProQuest, PubMed® and Web of ScienceTM) for articles published between January 2000 and May 2018. Eligible studies evaluated the delivery of school-based eye-care programmes, reporting results in terms of spectacle compliance rates, quality of screening or attitude changes. We considered studies to be ineligible if no follow-up data were reported. Two authors screened titles, abstracts and full-text articles, and we extracted data from eligible full-text articles using the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality rights-based conceptual framework. Findings Of 24 559 publications screened, 48 articles from 13 countries met the inclusion criteria. Factors involved in the successful provision of school-based eye-care interventions included communication between health services and schools, the willingness of schools to schedule sufficient time, and the support of principals, staff and parents. Several studies found that where the numbers of eye-care specialists are insufficient, training teachers in vision screening enables the provision of a good-quality and cost–effective service. As well as the cost of spectacles, barriers to seeking eye-care included poor literacy, misconceptions and lack of eye health knowledge among parents. Conclusion The provision of school-based eye-care programmes has great potential to reduce ocular morbidity and developmental delays caused by childhood vision impairment and blindness. Policy-based support, while also attempting to reduce misconceptions and stigma among children and their parents, is crucial for continued access.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                v.chan@qub.ac.uk
                Journal
                BMC Health Serv Res
                BMC Health Serv Res
                BMC Health Services Research
                BioMed Central (London )
                1472-6963
                25 July 2022
                25 July 2022
                2022
                : 22
                Affiliations
                [1 ]GRID grid.4777.3, ISNI 0000 0004 0374 7521, Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biological Sciences, , Queen’s University Belfast, ; Northern Ireland, UK
                [2 ]Vision Aid Overseas, Crawley, UK
                [3 ]Vision Aid Overseas, Lusaka, Zambia
                [4 ]GRID grid.16463.36, ISNI 0000 0001 0723 4123, College of Health Sciences, , University KwaZulu Natal, ; Durban, South Africa
                Article
                8350
                10.1186/s12913-022-08350-2
                9310673
                35879794
                b652f246-d642-46c2-8c79-206209f0b1d6
                © The Author(s) 2022

                Open AccessThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

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                Research
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2022

                Health & Social care
                school-based eye health programme,scalability assessment,uncorrected refractive error,vision impairment,childhood blindness

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