Visual impairment is a public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa, affecting nearly 5% of the population. Efforts to combat avoidable causes have been hampered by weak health systems and little evidence exists to suggest what interventions may be effective to improve the situation. Despite this, there are calls to promote some specific interventions, one of which being the closer integration of eye health services into health systems, often focusing on training primary health workers to deliver basic eye health services.
This study seeks to understand how eye health services are delivered by primary health workers who have received training and what constraints remain to effective service provision. This was a qualitative investigation into the experiences of 20 primary health workers trained in primary eye care and eight key informants working within specialist eye health services or regional and district health management positions in two districts in Tanzania.
Conclusions: Although training of primary health workers is useful, it is recognised that is not sufficient to address the burden of eye health disease present in rural communities in Tanzania. It is likely that broader engagement with the general health system, and most likely with the private sector, will be necessary to improve the coverage of eye health care to remote and poor communities such as those in Morogoro.