With COVID still affecting the way doctors work around the world, Anthony Chignell tells us how the World Sight Foundation has adapted to deliver its training objectives in new ways.

How was the World Sight Foundation formed?

The WSF was founded in 2012 with the primary objective of helping ophthalmic education in developing countries. This was to help address the appalling incidence of 36 million people affected by blindness in the world (80% of which is treatable or preventable).

Over the years we have mainly (but not exclusively) concentrated on those involved in primary eye care in various parts of the world (such as Africa, India, China, Malaysia). The person from whom the patient first seeks help has a vital role to play in diagnosis and management, and this is especially important in areas where medical facilities are less widely available or developed.

What are the organisation's aims?

Our overall objective is to help primary care workers able to be able to diagnose and treat simple conditions and, through improved examination and history taking skills, to recognise potentially blinding eye diseases which need referral to a specialist centre.

Our motto is, "If we treat, we help now. If we teach, we help forever."

What does the WSF's education work involve?

Our teaching consists of courses especially designed for the various cadres involved in this work; ophthalmic nurses, clinical officers, optometrists, ophthalmologists and general practitioners. These three to four day courses, mainly with teachers from the UK together with local experts, consist of interactive lectures and hands on clinical skilling sessions.

The contents of the courses reflect the needs of the particular cadre attending. Many of the people we teach receive a very limited amount of ongoing education and our teaching has proved to be extremely popular.

What are the WSF's current activities?

Travel has stopped due to the COVID pandemic and we have been unable to conduct any of our in-country courses. During this time, we have written an affordable manual for those doing primary eye care, and while it is primarily directed at the developing world, it has sufficient information to make it useful for anybody doing this work.

QR codes throughout the text connects the reader to the illustrations on the WSF website. The manual has been widely welcomed and we are now engaged on translations to Portuguese and French in order to reach a wider audience.

We are also in the process of developing distance learning courses and making teaching videos based on the manual, which concentrate on symptoms and examination skills.

Can MDU members get involved?

Although this work is only suitable for ophthalmic personnel, the Primary Eye Care manual itself might also be helpful for any healthcare professional who needs to make an ophthalmic examination.

We would also always be interested in hearing from anybody in the relevant specialties who wants to get involved with us. Contact us via the website, worldsightfoundation.com

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This page was correct at publication on 01/11/2021. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.