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Improving access to eye health services in rural Timor-Leste

Submitted: 16 February 2012
Revised: 4 May 2012
Published: 18 September 2012

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Author(s) : Pereira SM, Blignault I, du Toit R, Ramke J.

Citation: Pereira SM, Blignault I, du Toit R, Ramke J.  Improving access to eye health services in rural Timor-Leste. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2012; 12: 2095. Available: (Accessed 21 October 2017)


Context:  Delivering eye health services to people in rural areas, especially in fragile, post-conflict countries, is a major challenge. This article reports on the implementation and evaluation of an innovative district-based outreach service. The main project partners were the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health and an international non-government organization, with assistance from a local non-government organization.
Issue:  An eye care nurse in Covalima District, a remote location 178 km from Timor-Leste’s capital, Dili, was provided with a motor-bike for transport and regular support for outreach eye services to sub-district facilities. Data collected over the first year of operation were examined and included: services provided, spectacles dispensed, health promotion activities conducted and the cost of providing these. The project was also evaluated for its relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability.
Lessons learned:  In the first 12 months, 55 outreach visits were conducted across the district’s seven sub-districts during which 1405 people received vision screening, and 777 spectacles were dispensed. In addition to meeting the five evaluation criteria, compared with the hospital-based eye clinic the outreach service resulted in significantly greater gender equity among eye health service beneficiaries. This pilot project demonstrates what can be achieved when a Ministry of Health (central and district level) and non-government organizations (international and local) work in partnership to support a dedicated health care provider.

Key words: access, eye health, outreach services, Timor-Leste.

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