A survey assessing the progress towards achieving Vision 2020: The Right to Sight initiative in Ghana has commended the bold strides made by stakeholders in the country’s eye care sector.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Cape Coast and led by Dr. E. K. A. Morny, however, identified an unequal burden of visual impairment in the country with rural communities bearing the greater share.
Vision 2020: The Right to Sight is a global initiative launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) in 1999 to reduce avoidable visual impairment and ultimately eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020.
Ghana signed on to the VISION 2020 program by launching the National Eye Health Program on October 31st 2000.
In the area of disease control, the country was declared trachoma-free in June 2018 by the WHO and became the first country in the WHO Africa region to reach this goal.
However, cataract and refractive errors continue to be the major causes of blindness and visual impairment.
The study documented an increase in the number of eye care personnel in all the eye care cadres: optometrists, ophthalmologists and ophthalmic nurses.
On the flip side, the known inequitable distribution of human resources in Ghana was noted with majority of the eye care workforce concentrated in the southern and urbanized areas of Ghana although the burden of vision loss is greater in the rural areas.
In the area of technology and infrastructure, the distribution of the eye care facilities was skewed to the Greater Accra Region where the proportion of the facilities exceeded the proportion of the population being served per WHO standards. There was also a general unavailability of specialized equipment in many facilities, especially at the district level as this would impact negatively on the efficiency and quality of care provided by eye care staff.
The study recommended that the Government of Ghana and the various stakeholders in eyecare in Ghana to revitalize the goals of VISION2020 program beyond the year 2020.
The researchers implored for the new goals to focus on strategies to ensure equitable distribution of personnel, equipment, and infrastructure across the country as well as public education.
The study suggests that the prevalence of visual impairment may further be reduced if programs targeted at increasing cataract surgical rate (CSR), providing refractive error and low vision services, and eliminating infectious causes of visual impairment are implemented.
The team of researchers was made up of Enyam KA Morny, Samuel Boadi-Kusi, Stephen Ocansey, Samuel Kyei, Kwame Yeboah, and Maureen Adanna Mmaduagwu.
Read the research published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health here.