Last week, at the third UN high-level meeting on communicable diseases, Michael Bloomberg was quoted as saying, “Cities can be the engines of change beyond their borders. When policies work at a local level, national governments are more likely to adopt them.” While the context was not exactly the one in which I write, I was struck by the fact that this is the way the Vision Impact Institute and many other organizations are making change around the world. By taking the initial baby steps toward local change for vision care, we have the opportunity to run marathons to change the way our world sees.
This month on World Sight Day, many organizations will be highlighting the need for Eye Care Everywhere, and as I reflected on what “everywhere” means in the context of vision health, I was reminded that it’s not all about geography and often more about our daily tasks. Everywhere means at school or work or at home. Everywhere means in the city or the country or on the roads we travel in between.
In fact, the Vision Impact Institute has paid particular attention over the past two years to those roads we travel, whether as a driver, passenger, cyclist, or pedestrian. Good vision is paramount to our safety on the roads, and we must prioritize the need for minimal standards for our world’s drivers in order to create safer roads for everyone.
When I began researching the topic of vision and road safety a couple of years back, I was shocked to find that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 aims to halve the number of global road traffic deaths and injuries by 2020” – yet good vision is notably absent as a means to accomplish this aim. In numerous UN and WHO reports years prior, it was noted that “Poor eyesight of road users is a main risk factor influencing crash involvement and a main risk factor for road traffic injuries worldwide.” Today, good vision is not even a part of their safe roads agenda.
But we are changing that.
This World Sight Day, I’m inspired by the many local efforts to improve vision and road safety specifically in India, home of the world’s deadliest roads. From new research to hopeful policy changes, these local steps to prioritize eye care could have global consequences for people everywhere.
Eye Care Everywhere must start somewhere. The collective work our organizations have undertaken to prioritize vision adds fuel to the fires of change, and I believe each local action is creating global ripples that will not be ignored.