Jayshree Vasani: Speaking My Language
Like many during this pandemic, I have been keeping myself busy whilst furloughed – finding new pathways and challenges.
Finding a new pathway is a skill and takes hard work – learning, engaging and networking. The best pathways are those that facilitate partnership and collaboration, where you can leverage maximum mutual benefit. Enter National Eye Health Week (NEHW).
NEHW is a collaboration supported by ABDO, the Association of Optometrists, the Federation of Ophthalmic and DispensingOpticians and the College of Optometrists. My fellow London local lead, Ian Anderson, is a trustee of the charity Eye Health UK, which organises the week, and represents ABDO’s interests with the annual campaign. NEHW particularly peeked my interest this year, as I thought of all those people who had put off an eye examination or visit to hospital during the first lockdown.
Speaking my language
Covid-19 infographic supporting National Eye Health Week 2020
We face an avalanche of sight loss as people continue to remain at home, due to a lack of knowledge and awareness of why the eye exam is so vital to the early detection of eye conditions, and of the support available. People from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds and those with learning disabilities are particularly vulnerable – so I was particularly interested when I saw a group on LinkedIn called Covid-19 Infographics looking for health ambassadors.
This is a group of doctors, medical students and volunteers who have created infographics, providing communities with reliable, easy-to-read resources about Covid-19 in 35+ languages. Producing resources, including advice about face coverings, migrants’ rights and more, they work closely with organisations such as councils, GP practices, refugee centres, cultural schools and foodbanks.
Subhash Suthar from Glaucoma UK and I decided to reach out to this group and work with co-founders, Shiron Rajendran, Venughanan Manikavasagar and optometrist Pirakalai Manikavasagar. Together, we produced four infographics, liaising with Rachel Robson of NEHW website, Vision Matters, to provide a base for our resources: Eye Health and Covid-19; Mythbusters about eye health; Eye health advice; and The eye test: eligibility. The infographics are available in English, Arabic Traditional Chinese French, Hindi, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili Tamil Turkish and Vietnamese.
Around this time, the first BAME Vision Committee meeting was due to take place under the umbrella of cross-sector charity, Vision UK, which has worked to deliver positive change for blind and partially sighted people through partnerships across the eye health and optical sector. Unfortunately, the charity has been wound up as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The BAME Vision Committee has continued, however, engaging with local BAME communities to highlight the importance of eye and general health. For NEHW 2020, four committee members took to the airwaves delivering key eye health messages to South Asian community groups in English, Gujarati and Hindi – and during Zoom meetings.
This meant brushing up on my Gujarati skills and engaging in a different way, but with the support of Bhavini Makwana, co-chair, and Subhash Suthar and Ballu Patel from the Royal National Institute of Blind People, we had great engagement – with Bolton Hindu Forum Radio reaching an audience of 36,000 listeners worldwide.
Topics raised included eye drops, dry eye, cancelled appointments for cataracts, and NHS sight test eligibility criteria; one listener didn’t know that eye exams were free for under 16s while another didn’t realise the importance of going for an eye exam when a close family member had glaucoma. It just showed the huge impact that can be made by simply delivering messages in a person’s mother tongue.
Two other members of the committee are Lance Campbell and Hamaira Ashraf-Haroon, SeeAbility eyecare champions for London and the north west respectively. They were recently involved in producing a YouTube video titled, ‘We can help you. Looking after your eyes’, aimed at people with learning disabilities and their carers. SeeAbility also has free resources for eyecare professionals to help support any patients with learning disabilities, available at www.seeability.org.uk
Each touchpoint should be a pebble in a pond, rippling out and bringing you in contact with more people and possibilities. If you are on a new pathway, continuing to make a difference to people’s lives, and are looking for support, please don’t hesitate to contact myself, Abi Page, ABDO London lead, or fellow local leads, Natasha Wood and Ian Anderson.
We are all here to support you and understand the challenges you may be facing.
Find all regional and local leads contact here.
This article first appeared in the December 2020 issue of Dispensing Optics.