China’s population is ageing and its eye health are expanding and placing pressure on the public health system’s ability to fully meet the diverse health needs of vulnerable groups and rural communities. About 20 percent of the world’s people living with blindness are in China, and 80 percent of them live in rural areas. Under China’s recent medical reforms, the private sector is encouraged to contribute to the country’s health system.  

Over the past five years, private eye hospitals have extended into rural counties, providing surgery in public hospitals and helping fill gaps in the eye health system. The Fred Hollows Foundation is partnering with a private hospital group to meet future eye health needs through integrated people-centred eye care project. The Foundation has partnered with Chaoju Eye Group to deliver a four-year "Public-Private Collaboration to Promote Integrated People-Centred Eye Care Project in Inner Mongolia" from 2023 to 2027 in Hohhot City and Baotou City, Inner Mongolia. 

The project will provide comprehensive ophthalmic clinical training and eye health governance management training for public county hospitals and local health institutions, provide primary eye health knowledge training for rural doctors and teachers, empower local county and village medical institutions and provide eye disease screening. The project is expected to benefit 160,000 local people, provide 6,000 pairs of glasses, offer 600 cataract surgeries, and treat 80,000 other eye disease patients. 

The Fred Hollows Foundation China Country Manager Amanda Huang said a partnership approach was vital to sight restoration efforts in China. "Eye health is an important component of national health. Through this project, our goal is to enhance the capacity of grassroots eye health services in Inner Mongolia, improve the eye health awareness of grassroots communities, explore a sustainable and scalable innovative collaboration model to contribute to the sustainable development of eye health and medical services in Inner Mongolia,” she said.  

The launch was attended by representatives from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Health Commission, Department of Education, Department of Public Security, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Disabled Persons’ Federation, the Australian Embassy in China, Chao Ju Ophthalmology Hospital, Baotou Chaoju Ophthalmology Hospital, Dorbod Banner People’s Hospital and Wuchuan County Hospital.  

This project is supported by the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations (NFACR). Established in 2020, NFACR is an Australian government initiative that aims to strengthen understanding and engagement between Australia and China. Over the past three years, NFACR has distributed almost AUD $20 million in grant funding for projects in health and other sectors.