IAPB Issues an Eye Opening Report on World Sight Day

IAPB Issues an Eye Opening Report on World Sight Day

It seems like the world has a lot of problems other than blindness, but roughly 285 million people all over the world have impaired vision. What’s worse, a particular kind of vision impairment, myopia, is a degenerative condition which can eventually lead to blindness. It’s also the most common vision impairment globally. Fortunately, four out of five cases of impairment are completely avoidable.

Research shows that every dollar that is spent on eye health has a two-fold return on investment. However, in developing countries, there’s a four-fold return on investment. That’s good, because this is also where 90 percent of all visual impairment cases are found. Out of the 285 million people living with vision impairment, 39 million are blind.

IAPB and its members recognise that governments are a key player in making sure everyone has access to quality eye health services. For example, right now, it’s difficult for people in southeast Asia to gain access to a qualified eye doctor. That’s because there’s only one ophthalmologist for ever 200,000 people. But it gets worse. Most of the doctors are concentrated in cities when 75 percent of the people live in rural areas.

 Some of these people desperately need access to glasses, contacts like Air Optix, or surgery to correct other eye disorders.

But even in developed countries, the cost of care isn’t cheap. Recent research done by Prevent Blindness America found that the costs of eye health in developed countries is high – with costs in the U.S. reaching $139 billion in 2013.

However, 2013 marks the beginning of change. It’s the year that a new WHO Action Plan is being implemented to prevent avoidable blindness and visual impairment. The theme for World Sight Day 2013 is appropriately: “Universal Eye Health.”

World Sight Day stresses the importance of getting your eyes examined and vision corrected, if need be. This year, Zoe Gray, Advocacy Manager, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and one of its authors is placing extra emphasis on the need for governments to intervene to ensure that all people, including those who are marginalised, get quality eye health services.

The report being published by the IAPB gives guidance for government officials on how to make progress.

Each year, World Sight Day is celebrated in over 300 events in 60 countries across the globe. This year, WSD is marked with a global call to action: “Get your eyes tested.” The IAPB, which represents more than 120 organisations and every major eye health organisation and global eye health professional association, is supporting WSD this year by sending promotional material to more than 500 addresses. The names on the roster include WHO, ministries of health, country offices, and other organisations that work with local communities and NGOs.

The hope is that both governments and individuals become more aware of the need to check and correct vision problems before they become very serious. While this might be more or a concern in developing countries, the cost of eye surgery in the UK, and other developed nations, pales in comparison to a simple eye exam and a pair of glasses.

Roger Anderson is an opthamology researcher. He often writes about his research and optical innovations on eye health blogs.

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