Linking Eye Health, Gender Equality, and Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals

Eye health is an important component of global development, as evidenced by a recent study published in The Lancet Planetary Health. The research shows that increasing availability and quality of eye health services around the world can contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Carried out as part of the Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health, the research assessed 226 studies relating to eye health services and the targets and outcomes of the UN SDG program, including cataract surgery, free cataract screenings, surgery for advanced trachoma cases, providing glasses and rural community eye health volunteers.

Researchers found direct and indirect links across the goals, particularly those related to health (SDG 3), poverty (SDG 1), economic productivity (SDG 8), education (SDG 4) and equality (SDGs 5 & 10). 


Eye Health is an Important Element to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

These findings underscore the importance of global eye health initiatives that are dedicated to providing inclusive, sustainable services for all, leaving no one behind.

Vision impairment disproportionately affects women, rural populations, and ethnic minority groups, who often face significant barriers to accessing eye health services. These obstacles – including costs, inability to travel and lack of access to information and resources – are often more difficult for women to overcome, excluding them from their rights to health.

Women play key roles in socio-economic development, so when women and girls have access to eye health services and sight saving surgeries, their families and entire community benefits, and additional progress is made towards the achievement of the SDGs.



UN Friends of Vision Side Event Explores Links between Eye Health, Gender Equality and Climate Change

In March, the UN Friends of Vision hosted an official side event at the 66th Commission on the Status of Women about the links between eye health, gender equality and climate change. UN Women and the World Health Organization (WHO) co-sponsored the panel discussion, entitled, “How Can Eye Health Contribute to Achieving Gender Equity and the Empowerment of all Women and Girls in the Context of Climate Change”. The event was attended by diplomats, development professionals and eye health sector experts.

The panel explored climate change and eye health, which are linked in a cause-and-effect cycle that threatens to leave millions of women and girls at greater risk of poverty and undo the decades of progress made in global health. The impacts of vision impairment and climate change perpetuate the socio-economic marginalization of women and girls that impedes advancement towards gender equality.

Speakers included Friends of Vision UN Ambassador Co-Chairs, and gender, eye health and climate specialists across the sectors. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) Global Ambassador HRH The Countess of Wessex gave a special call to action, noting how heartening it is to see how different stakeholders in the field of vision, like agencies, organization and the private sector collaborate to create an international movement that can tackle these issues.

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