VOSH-CA and GPSA Team Up To Create Vision Health Pilot Program In Guatemala


In efforts to find additional screenings that can be implemented during programs in Guatemala due to numerous participant complaints that the clinic days were too slow, Sara Rodgers (PC/MoH Liaison) contacted Deborah Wright (Volunteer) for Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity (VOSH) https://vosh.org/ to explore the idea of integrating visual acuity screenings during programs. VOSH is an international organisation that aims to provide free and low cost visual health services to people in the US, Canada, Central America, Africa and Asia. It is an American-based NGO that has been operating for 70 years.

Objectives of the Pilot Project:

  • To broaden the scope of GPSA screening activities for participants and Medical Fellows;
  • To provide free visual acuity tests to people in the rural communities of Guatemala;
  • To provide free visual health education;
  • To provide people with free readings glasses, when applicable;
  • To provide low cost referral services and glasses to people with visual impairments.

Description of the project:

The pilot project was approved by Miseal Cifuentes (TSR Coordinator) at the MoH on 2018.09.04. GPSA, with the collaboration of Deborah (volunteer at VOSH), the TSRs and MFs, will implement free visual acuity screenings in the communities of Olintepeque, Cantel and San Mateo. The target populations will be school-aged children, adolescents, adults and the elderly. Children not old enough to attend school will be excluded from the screening.  These communities were chosen by Vanessa Brombosz (ARM OPS, GPSA) and Misael, as this is where the current GPSA Medical Fellows are stationed. The MFs and TSRs be trained by Deborah to perform the visual acuity screening and provide visual health education. They will give free reading glasses donated by VOSH to patients who need them, based on the results of the screening. They will provide the patients with a list of recommendations, including a referral to an optometrist that provides a full eye exam at a reduced cost.

Here are the actions that have been and taken:

  • Deborah has donated 6 screening panels for TSRs and MFs to use for visual acuity screening.
  • VOSH has donated 500 reading glasses for TSRs and MFs to donate to patients. Vanessa will keep tract of the inventory and glasses donated based on the information from the “Boleto de Referencia” (see below).
  • Deborah and Vanessa met with Dr. Diaz (Optometrist) who has 2 offices in Xela. He has agreed to offer a full visual exam (worth 200Q) for 40Q to people who come to the clinic with the “Boleto de Referencia” (see below). This is what is included in the visual exam:

In addition, he has agreed to provide patients with free frames (donated by VOSH), and only cover the cost of the lens. The MoH agrees that this exam is provided at a very low cost. They see no issues with recommending Dr. Diaz as long as it is not specifically indicated on the “Boleto de Referencia”.

  • Deborah, Vanessa and Karl (MF) met with Misael Cifuentes from the MoH on 2018.09.05. He is in agreement with the proposed plan. He has contacted the doctors working in the Centros de Salud in Olineteque, Cantel and San Mateo to get their approval.

These are actions that have been scheduled for next week:

  • Deborah and Misael will visit all 3 the centros in Olintepeque, Cantel and San Mateo on Sept.11th to pitch the project proposal and get the agreement of the doctors to begin implementation of the visual acuity screening.
  • During this meeting Vanessa will have the “Boleto de Referencia” approved by the doctors at the Centros.
  • A training is scheduled for Sept.12th at 11am in Celas Maya. Attending the training will be Vanessa, the MFs and the TSRs from Olintepeque, San Mateo and Cantel (as requested by Misael). Deborah will be the trainer.
  • It is expected that the MFs and TSRs will begin implementing the visual acuity screening at the end of October.



These are future plans:

  • To implement the visual acuity screening during a GPSA program in Guatemala. The aim is to start January or February 2019. A tech session will be created to train participants for visual acuity screenings.
  • Write a Chapter in the GPSA textbook on visual health.
  • To monitor the success (% of referrals see an optometrist). Plan and indicators to be developed by Vanessa and Deborah.
  • To expand to 3 additional Centros de Salud – Concepcion, Zunil and San Francisco la Union by February 2019.
  • Vanessa is to assist Deborah and VOSH in the planning of a jornada (list of services offered TBD) with a team from the States for the Spring of 2019. The MoH has accepted to help with finding an appropriate location. The MFs and GPSA staff can volunteer to assist with the translation and the visual acuity screenings. If we have a program at this time, Deborah has requested that participants also assist with patient information gathering and the visual acuity screening.
  • Get consent from our stakeholders and create a referral system to implement this project in Belize and West Virginia. Deborah is very excited to collaborate with us on this, once the Guatemala project is set-up.
  • With the help of the MFs and TSRs, find optometrists in the communities that agree to offer low cost vision exams.

Training class with VOSH CA and GPSA volunteers and the TSRs from the 3 Central Salud Clinics