Today, October 9th, 2019, ahead of World Sight Day, the WHO has launched its first World Report on Vision. The report sets out concrete proposals to address significant challenges in delivering eye care. Its key proposal is to integrate and scale up “people-centered eye care”, embedded in health systems and based on strong primary health care.
- Among its findings the report stresses the following: For the first time, the magnitude of the problem – which is still very difficult to estimate – and the global needs are approached through the backlog of people who have yet to be helped, those whose needs have been met, for instance with glasses and contact lenses, and those who still need to interact with the health system and could benefit from rehabilitation;
- Globally, more than 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment; of those at least 1 billion people have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or could be resolved but has yet to be treated;
- Inequity in eye health is discussed as it weighs more heavily on low- and middle-income countries, on rural communities, on older people, women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and indigenous populations;
- The increasing global demand, which is set to triple by 2050 because of population growth, aging, and changes in lifestyle.
All the above pose a considerable challenge to health systems, especially those already weakened by the lack of human and financial resources.
Additionally, the report emphasizes the great impact of people-centered eye care on Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals [No poverty (SDG 1), good health and well-being (SDG 3), quality education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), reduced inequalities (SDG 10) and climate action (SDG 13)].
The World Report on Vision recommends a multi-pronged approach:
- Integration. There is a need for the integration and scaling up of eye care within national health services, based on strong primary health. Integrated people-centered eye care: eye care needs to be “people-centered” so services are managed and delivered ensuring that individuals receive a continuum of proactive, preventative treatment and rehabilitation interventions to address the full spectrum of eye conditions;
- Data. The gaps in data need to be addressed, particularly regarding met and unmet eye care needs, so that we can plan services and monitor progress effectively.
- Financial hardship. Protection against financial hardship involves ensuring that the costs of eye care do not subject the user to catastrophic spending on health.
- Coordination. A greater multi-sector coordination is needed, including social services, finance, education, labor, and the private sector. The World Report on Vision seeks to generate greater awareness and increased political will and investment to strengthen eye care globally. The world eye care actors have made tremendous progress, both qualitative and quantitative over the two last decades, but the report shows that much more work is needed still.