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Strengthening public eye health services (SPHS) training offered in 2021-22

The University of Cape Town’s Community Eye Health Institute (UCT-CEHI) has been developing management capacity in sub-Saharan African blindness prevention programmes since its establishment in 2008. 

Through educational and training programmes, research and programme development advisory services, UCT-CEHI has provided much needed programme management training and development support to eye care programmes in low-and middle- income countries.  Our portfolio includes postgraduate education in community eye health, leadership and management training for strengthened public health, development support and consultancies for planning, monitoring and evaluation of eye care services, as well as research (including RAAB) and baseline mapping in the disability field.

To date, we have…

  • trained over 400 eye care practitioners in public eye health and management of eye care programmes,
  • conducted more than 100 workshops, lectures and presentations, involving more than 1000 participants,
  • published almost 20 papers in peer-reviewed journals, 3 volumes (6 issues) of the Community Eye Health newsletter and
  • supported several district, provincial and national eye care programmes in planning and strategizing eye care initiatives, conducting situational analyses, and providing monitoring and evaluation consultancies to help develop and improve eye care service delivery;
  • trained over 200 medical officers / ophthalmic surgeons and trainers of trainers to perform cataract and glaucoma surgery in our Surgical Training Unit, using a state-of-the-art Simulated Ophthalmic Surgery methodology.

We offer a selection of training programmes to help meet our goal of strengthening public eye health and management capacity in eye care programmes in sub-Saharan Africa, each specially structured to meet the needs of the target audience and / or developmental outcome. The training portfolio includes certificate (vocational) courses and semester or one-year academic courses. 

The certificate courses address specific competency areas in eye care programme management and are offered in interactive workshop format with outcomes geared towards direct application in the programmes of the participants. Although the trainings are aimed at individuals (eye care practitioners) working in eye care programmes in sub-Saharan Africa, several non-eye care professionals and participants from countries outside the region have also found the training useful.  The academic courses provide specific qualifications in public eye health.

The aim of the management short courses is to develop the necessary competencies in eye care programme managers or teams and equip eye care programmes with the knowledge and skills to manage their eye care programmes on a facility, district or national level. In particular, the courses address specific competency areas in eye care programme management. They are offered as interactive learning workshops with outcomes geared towards direct application in the programmes of the participants. These courses (3-5 days in duration) aim to fill the gaps inherent to most public health programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa, notably in management and leadership, and give attention to critical aspects of successful eye care programmes, e.g. programme planning, organising of resources, control of performance, quality and as well as financial management and administration.

The courses listed are all offered at the CEHI Training Centre at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. However, health care facilities, organisations and eye care teams can request that the training be provided in-programme, where it can be more closely customised to meet the particular needs of the programme. In a similar way can the training be tailored to equip Vision 2020 management committees with the skills and knowledge to advocate for and attain improved intersectoral integration and participative management in developing eye care programmes in poor districts and countries of the developing world. Further information about this and other aspects of the training (such as costs and logistical arrangements) can be obtained by emailing us at cehi@uct.ac.za.

The format of the teaching is based on team-oriented learning and application of evidence-based best practice and follows the appreciative enquiry approach. In other words, the teaching and learning paradigm encompasses the sequence below:

1. Know how things are
2. Understand why things are
3. Imagine how things can be
4. Engage with key role players
5. Strategise for implementa-tion
6. Monitor, evaluate and report

For each of the knowledge areas, participants are taught to know and understand the key aspects and issues of the topics in their own context and are guided to develop strategies to achieve a more favourable outcome suited to their needs.  The training is made relevant through practical exercises and insightful feedback from both peers and faculty.  Ideally, these course comprise a pre-training aspect, a hands-on, workshop style course schedule and a post-training aspect through which the course material are engaged with intensively in order to ensure maximum knowledge assimilation and application within the participants' own context.  In a way, the training can be used to get some really important strategic activities done for an organisation.

Now, with the Covid-19 pandemic a standing feature accross all sectors of society, including health and education, these courses are offered in online format. There is ample opportunity for inter and intra-engagements with, between and amongst participants in order to achieve similar outputs as during the contact / blended formats.  However, these courses, while not over-powering, requires focus, discipline and intense reflexion to ensure maximum benefit from the training.  

The duration of the online courses range from 8 to 12 weeks, with a weekly lesson, course material download and participant activity as the main structure.  Typically between 2 and 4 hours should be available for study / reading / reflection / exercise per week.  The availability and access to computer equipment, internet / email and data is a critical requirement.

Participants will receive a certificate of completion from the Community Eye Health Institute, and will retain membership of CEHI's e-resource facility, which is supported by the University's Centre for Education Technology.