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The Power of Research: Advocating for Better Outcomes in Eye Care for Latin America & the Caribbean


Research and evidence have amazing power to drive advocacy and inspire action, and at the VII, we have curated significant evidence to highlight the global need for vision correction.


According to the latest global research, the number of people around the world with vision loss is projected to reach 1.7 billion by 2050, with more than 161 million people currently suffering from uncorrected refractive errors (URE), the leading cause of blindness and moderate to severe vision loss.


The estimated number of people with vision loss in Latin America and the Caribbean region is 78 million, with nearly 15 million affected by blindness and moderate to severe vision loss due to URE.


When it comes to local and country-level evidence, the story becomes harder to tell. As Program Manager for The Americas, I see that every day.


In Latin America, regional and national eye health data needed to empower local advocates and problem-solvers remain scarce. Many of the experts I work with also experience this in their daily work.


Dr. Juan Carlos Silva, former Regional Advisor, Vision and Hearing Care, PAHO

“Most of the evidence collected in Latin America is on how to identify vision problems and their impact on the population. There is a lack of research on how to turn evidence into policies and programs. We need evidence on the effectiveness of advocacy, health education, and communication programs and on interventions like low-cost spectacles and telemedicine to increase access in the public and nonprofit sectors.”

Mauricio Confar, Country Manager, Essilor Colombia

“The best way to solve a problem is to identify it and understand its causes, the barriers to solving it and the consequences of not doing so. That is why, when we can show scientific evidence of a public health problem, we are more likely to get the support of stakeholders and the government to allocate resources and develop new public policies and health actions as solutions. Unfortunately in Colombia there is not sufficient information or scientific baselines on the visual health needs of the population.”

Dr. Abraham Campos Romero, Innovation and Research Manager Salud Digna Mexico

Research allows us to know the most prevalent visual health conditions in the country and identify risk factors and the profiles of population groups that are at greater risk of developing visual impairment and blindness. It allows us to have information that supports decision-making for the creation of public policies aimed at preventing visual impairment and strengthening the early detection of visual problems, which will allow us to reduce blindness in the future, improving the quality of life of people and positively impacting the socioeconomic development of the country.


While it is easy to say that more research is needed, it can be costly in both time and money. There are, however, several ways to consider research from an investment approach. Research can:


STRENGTHEN EYE HEALTH SYSTEMS

People depend on good vision for everyday life. Education, worker productivity, and safer mobility all must be supported by strong public health systems. One way to strengthen eye health systems is with strong evidence to determine the cost and accessibility of quality services that create the path for sustainable interventions at the primary care level. Achieving this, however, requires us to bolster capacity building to cond