Topical review: Task shifting and the recruitment and retention of eye health workers in underserved areas

Joel G. Somerville*, Niall C. Strang, Sven Jonuscheit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Significance: Many populations experience difficulty accessing eye care, especially in rural areas. Implementing workforce recruitment and retention strategies, as well as task shifting through widening scope of practice, can improve eye care accessibility. This article provides novel evidence on the compatibility of these strategies aimed at enhancing ophthalmic workforce recruitment, retention, and efficacy.

Purpose: The global burden of blindness is unequally distributed, affects rural areas more, and is frequently associated with limited access to eye care. The World Health Organization has specified both task shifting and increasing human resources for eye health as instruments to improve access to eye care in underserved areas. However, it is uncertain whether these two instruments are sufficiently compatible to provide positive synergic effects. To address this uncertainty, we conducted a structured literature review and synthesized relevant evidence relating to task shifting, workforce recruitment, retention, and eye care. Twenty-three studies from across the globe were analyzed and grouped into three categories: studies exploring recruitment and retention in human resources for eye health in general, studies discussing the relationship between task shifting and recruitment or retention of health workers in general, and studies specifically discussing task shifting and recruitment or retention in eye care workers.

Findings: Our findings demonstrate that incentives are effective for initiating task shifting and improving recruitment and retention in rural areas with a stronger effect noted in midlevel eye care professionals and trainees. Incentives can take various forms, e.g., financial and nonfinancial. The consideration of context-specific motivational factors is essential when designing strategies to facilitate task shifting and to improve recruitment and retention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-150
Number of pages8
JournalOptometry and Vision Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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