Recently there has been a great deal of new population-based evidence on visual impairment generated in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), thanks to the Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) survey methodology. The survey provides information on the magnitude and causes of visual impairment for planning services and measuring their impact on eye health in administrative “districts” of 0.5–5 million people. The survey results describing the quantity and quality of cataract surgeries vary widely between study sites, often with no obvious explanation. The purpose of this study was to examine health system characteristics that may be associated with cataract surgical coverage and outcomes in SSA in order to better understand the determinants of reducing the burden of avoidable blindness due to cataracts. This was a descriptive study using secondary and primary data.
Higher cataract surgical coverage was positively associated with having at least one fixed surgical facility in the area; availability of a dedicated operating theatre; the number of surgeons per million population; and having an eye department manager in the facility. Variables that were associated with better outcomes included having biometry and having an eye department manager in the facility. There are a number of health system factors at the district level that seem to be associated with both cataract surgical coverage and post-operative visual acuity outcomes. This study highlights the needs for better indicators and tools by which to measure and monitor the performance of eye health systems at the district level.