To identify barriers and enablers to accessing school-based eye health programs in Bogotá, Colombia.
We undertook a qualitative case study that explored how structural factors, and social and cultural norms influence access to school-based eye health programs. We conducted focus groups discussions and interviews with a purposive sample of 37 participants: government stakeholders (n = 4), representatives from non-governmental organizations (n = 3), and an eye-care practitioner, as well as teachers (n = 7), a school nurse, parents (n = 7), and children (n = 14) from private and public schools. Data were analyzed using a prior theme from the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality framework.
Routine vision screening in schools is not currently provided nor is there a budget to support it. Lack of collaboration between the health and education ministries and the absence of national planning affected the delivery of eye care in schools. Factors related to acceptability of school-based eye health programs included: poor acceptance of training teachers as vision screeners; stigma related to wearing spectacles; and distrust of health services. The cost of spectacles and poor access to eye health information were identified as barriers to positive child eye health outcomes by socioeconomically disadvantaged parents and children.
Our findings suggest the need for a national school eye health plan and improved cooperation between health and education ministries. Interventions to improve trust in health services, tackle the lack of human resources while respecting professional qualifications, and raise awareness of the importance of eye health are recommended.