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.
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.
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.
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.