The Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology

Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology:

Issue 5, September/October 2018 Original Study - Clinical

Leaving No One Behind: Strengthening Access to Eye Health Programs for People With Disabilities in 6 Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Mörchen, Manfred; Bush, Asahel; Kiel, Petra; Lewis, David; Qureshi, Babar

Author Information

From CBM International, Bensheim, Germany.

Reprints: Manfred Mörchen, MD, FEBO, MPH, CBM International, Stubenwaldallee 5, 64625 Bensheim, Germany. E-mail:


Purpose: To assess the impact of inclusive eye health programs for people with disabilities.

Design:  A synthesis evaluation study.

Methods: A cross-disciplinary team of ophthalmologists, evaluation, and disability-inclusive development advisors purposively selected evaluation reports of CBM-supported inclusive eye health programs in low- and middle-income countries. Employing a change-promoting paradigm, salient achievements and challenges were narratively analyzed and recommendations suggested based on a previously developed framework for strengthening disability inclusion in eye health programs.

Results: Evaluations from 10 programs implemented in 6 countries (Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam) from 2011 to 2016 were identified. Training of medical staff and government officials resulted in increased awareness about disability rights and improved physical accessibility of eye health facilities. Relevant information about inclusion in eye health was incorporated in national eye health training curricula in some countries. Information, education, and communication material about eye health neglected patients with hearing and learning impairments. An overly narrow focus on disability inclusion confounded intersectoral barriers to eye health services. Collaboration of eye health staff with disability peoples organizations improved significantly but evidence of its impact was elusive. Collection of disability-disaggregated data posed significant challenges and made it difficult to demonstrate increased access to eye health programs by people with disabilities.

Conclusions: Introduction of disability inclusion in eye health systems of countries with limited resources poses significant challenges. Future programs striving to improve access to eye health services for marginalized populations including people with disabilities might consider more flexible and contextualized approaches.

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