World Health Organization launches the World Report on Vision

09 Oct 2019

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially launched the World Report on Vision today in Geneva, Switzerland. The report launch, which coincides with World Sight Day on 10th October, seeks to generate greater awareness, increased political will and investment to strengthen eye care globally.

The World Report on Vision builds on the work of VISION 2020, a global initiative launched in 1999 to eliminate major causes of avoidable blindness as a public health problem by 2020. The report tracks progress achieved to date and identifies eye health issues and challenges that need to be addressed to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 for universal health coverage.

The report provides a series of recommendations using an integrated people-centered eye care (IPCEC) approach, which provides a continuum of promotive, preventive, treatment and rehabilitative interventions against the spectrum of eye conditions while simultaneously strengthening health systems. IPCEC encourages WHO member states to adopt four strategies: (i) engage and empower people and communities; (ii) reorient the model of care based on strong primary care; (iii) coordinate services within and across sectors; and (iv) create an enabling environment, specifically the inclusion of eye care in national health strategic plans, the integration of relevant eye care data within health information systems, and the planning of the eye care workforce according to population needs.

“By approaching eye health with an integrated, people-centered approach that strengthens health systems, countries will be able to achieve and sustain tremendous impact towards national, regional and global targets for health,” said Serge Resnikoff, Immediate Past Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control.  “The World Report on Vision will play a significant role in the achievement of universal eye health coverage, and in turn, the achievement of universal health coverage set by the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”

Globally more than 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment. Of those at least one billion people have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be treated, including 2.5 million people with trachomatous trichiasis, the late blinding stage of trachoma. The global demand for eye care is set to triple by 2050 because of population growth, ageing, and changes in lifestyle.

The report emphasises the importance of strengthened health systems to sustain progress made towards the elimination of other diseases, such as trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. The number of people at risk of trachoma has decreased by 91% since 2002 while the number of people requiring surgery to treat trachomatous trichiasis has dropped by 68%. However, with 2.5 million people still requiring urgent surgery and cases requiring management after countries achieve elimination thresholds, trachoma interventions will need to be integrated into health systems so that cases can be managed as they are presented.

Recommendations made in the report provide opportunities for the global trachoma community and other eye health communities to contribute to a broader global health agenda that will strengthen health systems so that countries are able to overcome challenges in meeting the current and projected eye care needs of the world’s population.  

The IPCEC approach further contributes to the achievement of universal health coverage through its recommendations to reduce health inequities by improving access to interventions and services, particularly among people in low and middle income countries, rural communities, older people, women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and indigenous populations. The report urges countries to protect their peoples from financial hardship resulting from accessing eye health, with greater cross-sectoral collaboration between eye care and allied sectors like education, labour, social services and the private sector.