Universal Eye Health and the Sustainable Development Goals

Dominic Haslam - Sightsavers

Johannes Trimmel - IAPB

In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs ) – or Global Goals – to stimulate action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet. These 17 goals and their 169 targets don’t just aim to complete the work of the Millennium Development Goals but envision transformational change in all countries and globally to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity. They integrate all three dimensions of sustainable development – the economic, social and environmental – and are built on the important commitment to leave no one behind.

The universality of the SDGs – meaning that they are equally relevant for developing as for developed countries – makes them an important framework for all policy areas and their resourcing from domestic budgets, foreign investments and international co-operation.

Universal Eye Health links to the Global Goal on Health

The Global Goal on Health aims to ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’. It targets to achieve Universal Health Coverage, where everyone gets the health services needed and where accessing these needed health services does not cause undue financial hardship. This provides good opportunities for linkages with the WHO Global Action Plan on Universal Eye Health (GAP), as the GAP calls for access to comprehensive and equitable eye care services for all, with emphasis on vulnerable groups.

The GAP calls on countries to develop and maintain a sustainable workforce for the provision of comprehensive eye health services, fully in line with the SDG target to substantially increase the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries.

The Health Goal target to end the epidemics of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is highly relevant for eliminating Onchocerciasis and blinding Trachoma.

Universal Eye Health and Global Goals outside health

No poverty

Social protection policies are referred to in the Global Goals on Poverty and Inequalities. They offer the potential to cover costs of eye health services and to provide access to assistive devices for visually impaired people.


Quality Education

An early detection and effective management of eye health conditions in children and youth – especially a timely response to the emerging myopia epidemic – would contribute to achieve the Global Goal on Education by reducing drop-out rates and improving academic performance.


gender equality

The prevalence of visual impairment is significantly higher among women. Yet they face many more barriers to access eye health services than men. The Global Goal on Gender Equality provides a key opportunity to promote equal access to comprehensive eye care services for women, as envisaged in the GAP.

The full spectrum of Sustainable Development Goals

The full spectrum of WHO Sustainable Development Goals

The SDGs and Universal Eye Health on national level

Implementation at national level creates opportunities to link action and indicator frameworks of the SDGs and the GAP. Both highly emphasize universal access to health that reaches all people and leaves no one behind. Devising and implementing national policies to reach both the SDGs and the GAP could potentially mutually reinforce and promote healthy lives and well-being at all ages.

The Health Goal target to end the epidemics of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is highly relevant for eliminating Onchocerciasis and Trachoma

Sustainable development goals
Updated on 16th Oct 2016

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