Government officials have joined CBM Tanzania and eye health partners to celebrate the official launch of a new Community Eye Health programme in Tanzania. The programme is part of the partnership between CBM Christian Blind Mission and Peek Vision and is being implemented by Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children.
This is the country’s first Peek-powered programme, and is taking place in the Hai and Mwanga districts of the Kilimanjaro region. Since beginning earlier this year, more than 4270 people have had their vision screened in 24 health centres and dispensaries. 1050 of those identified with eye problems were managed at the community level and 1700 referred to the district hospitals for further care. Overall, more than 1340 people have so far received medication, 377 have received spectacles and almost 700 people have received specialist services at the regional hospital and KCMC.
Those attending the official launch ceremony in August included representatives from CBM Tanzania, Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children; Office of the President, Regional Administration and Local Government; and KCMC Hospital.
Speaking at the event, the Guest of Honor, Honourable Mr. Stephen Kagaigai, the Regional Commissioner for Kilimanjaro, said: “I am very happy today to launch this project that uses smartphone technology to diagnose eye health problems, which is going to be implemented over a period of three years in Mwanga and Hai districts to close the existing shortcomings in Kilimanjaro.
“It is my hope that this project will reach many, especially by providing them with quality and comprehensive care and eye health education. By doing this, eye health for the people of Kilimanjaro Region will be improved.”
Dr Bernadetha Shilio, Programme Manager for the National Eye Care Programme under the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, noted in her speech: “Among the major challenges we face in Kilimanjaro Region, eye health expert teams are only found at KCMC, Mawenzi Regional Hospital and Kibosho Hospital. The other hospitals do not have these teams, but today we are going to launch this programme that aims to strengthen primary health facilities to provide quality eye health services.”
Eye screening in the programme is carried out by 57 health workers who have been trained to use the Peek Capture smartphone app to identify those with eye problems and refer them to care. Programme managers can monitor real-time data through the Peek Admin platform to follow the patient journey to treatment and identify any gaps in services that need to be addressed.
Nesia Mahenge, Country Director for CBM Tanzania, said: “The project is going very well. There is a great collaboration between our implementing partner (KCMC Hospital) and the Government, with support from the regional and district health facilities within Kilimanjaro. Using Peek technology has ensured reliable, quality data and easy access, in real time, after screening at all levels, from triage to specialists.
“The Peek app can be used by people who have a basic knowledge of using smartphones and the English language. Its accessibility and ease of use increases coverage and reaches more clients because it does not require any particular expertise. The system is also cost-effective because it does not involve sophisticated eye equipment or specialists such as ophthalmologists to screen for the various eye conditions.”
Grace Mwangi, Peek Programme Management Lead for Tanzania, said: “This programme in Tanzania is the latest example of how CBM and Peek are working together to bring better vision to people in regions where eye health care is difficult to access.”
Peek is currently powering other programmes in partnership with CBM in multiple countries in Africa and Asia, among them a CBM-Peek School Eye Health programme which launched in Ethiopia in June. Peek is also partnering with Vision for a Nation on programmes in Ghana and with Operation Eyesight Universal on a School Eye Health programme in Kenya.