In February 2023, The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ (The Foundation) commenced the State of Eye Health Research Programme. This research programme will be delivered through collaborations with Pacific Island governments, the New Zealand Government, The University of Auckland, and Ian Anderson Economics.
The Research Programme Goal
The goal of the State of Eye Health research programme is to develop the evidence that Pacific governments and decision makers require to establish affordable, effective, efficient, equitable, and sustainable eye health plans and policies that will strengthen and sustain their eye health systems for the long term.
Prioritising eye health through policies and plans in Pacific Island countries is essential for achieving the Healthy Islands vision, advancing Universal Health Coverage, and addressing the social and economic costs of this critical public health issue. The Pacific faces growing and ageing populations, rising non-communicable diseases, increasing socio-economic disparities across the Pacific region, and challenges related to climate change.
This research programme will therefore generate information that governments need as they plan, programme, and prioritise financial and human resources in an informed, publicly accountable, and defensible way.
PHASE 1 - Situation Analysis - Jan 2023 to Dec 2024
This phase will include a scoping review of existing data on eye health and key informant interviews/focus groups, a baseline situational analysis, prevalence of vision loss surveys, and a health economics analysis. The focus countries for this Phase are Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.
This phase will conclude with a comprehensive report that provides a snapshot of the current climate of the eye sector in the Pacific region, and concise targeted reports with key messages and options for policy makers and budget managers.
PHASE 2 - Contextual Priority Setting- 2025
This phase will gather evidence for eye health plans and policies to progress integrated people-centred eye care (IPEC). Activities in this phase seek to understand the local and contextual priorities of various eye care stakeholders in the Pacific.
The comprehensive report for this phase will outline Pacific government priorities for progressing towards strengthened eye health systems, from which targeted Policy Briefs for countries will be developed.
PHASE 3 - Action Plan - 2026
The report from this phase will outline key action points to support Pacific governments as they strengthen their eye health systems according to their priorities and support the development of targeted Policy Briefs for countries.
Key Programme Outcomes
The Programme’s Stakeholders
Pacific Island national and local health authorities are central to this research programme as they identified the need for evidence on eye health, and these entities will be instrumental in the establishment of national eye plans and policies.
Pacific Island ministries of finance are critical as top-level national agencies that establish funding levels and manage the release of necessary funds to finance health operations.
Regional partners including multilateral organisations, NGOs, and civil society groups, provide valuable technical support, their activities can complement and bolster outcomes, and support advocacy and information-sharing efforts.
Eye care professionals including ophthalmologists, eye care nurses and technicians, will play key roles in the individual studies. In addition, eye nurses have an in-depth understanding of the eye health context and of the communities affected by vision loss. Having nurses support research activities and data collection will provide local leadership and contextual insights into the findings.
Pacific Island communities will participate in individual studies and other activities. For example, using the RAAB methodology, people aged 50+ will be surveyed and have their eyes screened to assess the prevalence of blindness and vision impairment in their countries.
Addressing avoidable blindness and vision impairment for Pacific Island people is at the heart of The Foundation’s Future Fred Strategy. As such, communities, especially those marginalised and disadvantaged, will be a central consideration throughout the implementation of this research programme.