The Global Action Plan on Universal Eye Health (GAP) requests all stakeholders to join in to realise its ambitious vision: a world in which nobody is needlessly visually impaired, where those with unavoidable vision loss can achieve their full potential, and where there is universal access to comprehensive eye care services.
Our Call for Action to leaders, policy makers and practitioners from inside and outside the eye health sector in all countries addresses four crucial elements:
1. Get eye health mainstreamed
Treating eye diseases and managing vision loss at individual and societal levels should be integrated within general health systems
Eye health affects a country’s population at all ages. It influences the capacity of citizens to learn, to perform activities, to be economically active, and to participate. Eye health is linked to other health issues and also to the social determinants of health, some examples being diabetes, nutrition, population demographics and economic poverty. Therefore, treating eye diseases and managing vision loss at individual and societal levels should be integrated within general health systems.
Eye health specialists should engage in all health systems’ building blocks, financing schemes and related sector policies to ensure that actions towards Universal Eye Health are sustainably part of national development strategies. Policy makers and sector strategists need to include the promotion of good eye health in their specific policy frameworks.
2. Make eye health affordable
Financing for health systems in countries needs to ensure that early identification and screening, eye care treatments, essential eye care drugs and assistive devices required are affordable for all
In a systematic review of barriers to Cataract surgery in Africa , poverty and economic hardship were identified as one major cause of not accessing eye care services. Similar findings between economic poverty and exclusion from access to eye health are reported from elsewhere.
Financing for health systems in countries needs to ensure that early identification and screening, eye care treatments, essential eye care drugs and assistive devices required are affordable for all, especially for those living in poverty and other marginalised groups.
3. Ensure eye health is equitable and inclusive
Blindness and visual impairment prevalence is concentrated among the most socially disadvantaged, so appropriate financing mechanisms and proactive service delivery approaches are needed to reach the most marginalised communities
A recent assessment of avoidable blindness and visual impairment in seven Latin American countries concludes that ‘Blindness and moderate visual impairment prevalence were concentrated among the most socially disadvantaged, and cataract surgical coverage and cataract surgery optimal outcome were concentrated among the wealthiest’.
In addition to appropriate financing mechanisms, reaching the most marginalized population groups requires:
- a proactive approach in eye health promotion at the community level as part of primary health care
- consistent follow up on community screenings
- sensitization and training of staff to reduce attitudinal, communication and institutional barriers-to-access for patients from socially excluded groups
4. Work together in eye health
It is vital that all stakeholders work together at the national level, within a broader national development plan
This call for increased resources and focus on eye health comes at a time when many governments are responding to the new and expanded UN Sustainable Development Goals, substantially adding to existing national priorities. To achieve Universal Eye Health in this political environment, it is essential for the eye health sector to work collaboratively in building a strong evidence base, not only to make the case for eye health amongst other policy priorities, but in order to demonstrate what works, in particular in low-resource environments. It is vital that all stakeholders work together at the national level, within a broader national development plan.
The WHO Global Action Plan is timely, and chimes with broader international policy frameworks in its call for universal access to eye health. By working towards these four aims, the eye health sector can help make this vision a reality
Updated on 10th Oct 2016