Last month at the IAPB Council of Members meeting in Tanzania, I had the privilege of meeting and hearing an address by Dr Aubrey Webson , Ambassador to the United Nations for the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. As the first blind ambassador to the UN, Dr. Webson specializes in policy formulation around the role that vision plays in overall healthcare.
Throughout his address, aligning vision to each of the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Dr. Webson also challenged vision industry leaders to consider a shift in our dialogue around vision care. He suggested that if we expect country leaders to hear us, and if we want to make sustainable change for the priority of vision through government interventions, we must trade in the words “vision care” for “vision health.” By making a simple shift in our approach, we can ensure vision takes its rightful place on the global healthcare agenda.
Interestingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the long-awaited, first-ever World Report on Vision, only two days later to kick off World Sight Day. And, just weeks before, Essilor International, a subsidiary of EssilorLuxottica, published a groundbreaking report that defines the global scale of uncorrected poor vision– the world’s largest disability which overwhelmingly impacts the developing world – and outlined for the first time solutions to eliminate it within one generation.
These two complementary reports seek to raise awareness of the enormity of the need for vision health services and draw attention to effective strategies by which to respond The World Report on Vision ,concludes that health systems face significant challenges in meeting the current and projected eye care needs of the world’s population. And, in the words of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, “We have no choice but to take on this challenge.”
According to both reports, if we are to answer this challenge, we must create an effective system of people-centered eye care, and the following important actions are recommended:
Empowered by accelerated initiatives in 2019 and strengthened by new information, together we can take the necessary steps to ensure our world sees better and lives better as a result.