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SightLife brings women advocates to Nepal

The 10 visitors met community health workers trained to help prevent corneal blindness.

Ten visitors got a first-hand look at SightLife’s efforts to eliminate corneal blindness in Nepal in October. The non-profit health group hosted the “women advocates trip” so that female leaders in ophthalmology could visit the community health workers, partners and recipients of corneal care that had benefitted from the program since it started last year.

SightLife’s prevention empowers Nepal’s female community health workers to diagnose and manage corneal abrasions. Left untreated, these common eye injuries can develop infectious keratitis and become corneal ulcers, causing vision loss. Conservatively, eye trauma accounts for 1.5 million new cases of corneal blindness in low- and middle-income countries each year, but more than 90% of these cases can be prevented if patients have appropriate and timely access to care.

Female community health workers and SightLife Advocates have a seat in anticipation for the start of medical refresher training.

Prevention program supervisor Ajay Chaudhary (center right) leads a refresher training session with Nepalese community health workers. To his right sits SightLife Advocate Abigail Markward.

A community health worker demonstrates a perfectly executed eye exam during refresher training.

The visiting group of 10 organized by SightLife included six advocates and four staff. Among the advocates was OM’s Business Development Manager Abigail Markward. The advocates, whose backgrounds in ophthalmology include surgery, finance and human resources, each committed to raise $10,000 to help SightLife fund its prevention work in Nepal and scale similar blindness prevention programs in other regions.

A warm welcome is extended to the SightLife Advocates by Bharatpur Eye Hospital Chairman Krishna Raj Dharel. Next to him is SightLife Advocate Abigail Markward.

A community health worker sits with the corneal prevention program staff and SightLife Advocates to review the log books where she tracks patient information. The poster attached to her home signifies that community members can seek medical attention there.

Following prevention program refresher training, SightLife Advocate Audrey Talley Rostov, MD, is greeted by a community health worker in her home. Behind her is Mridula Singh, SightLife Clinical Programs consultant.

SightLife Advocates met with staff at the Bharatpur Eye Hospital to learn about the treatment of corneal blindness in Nepal. Advocates also visited the Nepal Eye Bank and Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu.

A community health worker presents discussion points for a lesson for a training breakout session.

In addition to participating in refresher trainings for the female community health workers, during which advocates became immersed in the program, they also had the opportunity to visit with some of the women in their homes and observe the program staff’s process for reviewing patient log books.

Additionally, the advocates spent time at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, the Nepal Eye Bank and Bharatpur Eye Hospital, where they had a chance to meet with ophthalmologists, staff and corneal patients.

To learn more about SightLife’s program and to help contribute to its campaign to end corneal blindness worldwide, visit www.sightlife.org . OM

Special thanks to SightLife and Molly Bull, SightLife’s senior director of marketing communications, for their help with this article.