Integrating eye health in Universal Health Coverage will elevate eye health into the health, social, economic and development agendas and will unlock opportunities for prioritizing and funding eye health. The ASEAN Advocacy to Action event discussed opportunities, strategies, and actions to effectively advocate and drive change in government policy and practice to achieve eye care for everyone, everywhere by 2030.
Focussing on global and regional eye health policy environment, the programme identified hooks to embed eye health within social, developmental, economic planning and policy at a national level. Experts and participants shared their views on advocacy actions and approaches that need to be prioritized for the ASEAN region.
The expert panel included:
- Maria Victoria Rondaris, Vice Chair, National Committee for Sight Preservation (NCSP), Philippines.
- Nor Fariza Ngah, National Head, Ophthalmology Services, Malaysia.
- Warapat Wongsawad, National Eye Care Service Plan Development Committee, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand.
And for an external perspective,
- Dev Narayan Shah, SightFirst Technical Advisor – Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF).
Highlights from the presentations
Dr Fariza covered the “Advocacy approaches for eye health” in the context of Malaysia through a very engaging presentation. Some of the highlights included how they have used “Advocacy through real-field actions” and “engagement of government officials like DG- Director General of health and ministers” to advocate and propose a “National eye health plan”.
The session also included presentations on the WHO Guide for Action in health systems and Integrated People-centred Eye Care (IPEC) Advocacy to Action toolkit explaining how these resources can help countries implement Integrated People-centred Eye Care and advance towards Universal Health Coverage.
For eye health to remain relevant among the multitude of other health causes, there is a role for everyone to play. Accessible evidence proving the case, clear and succinct advocacy goals, responsible leadership to consistently push the advocacy agenda, and understanding of the roles and responsibilities of every actor is going to make all the difference and help convert dialogues to action and policy.
Snippets from panel discussions
Dr Mavi recalled some of the challenges she encountered while framing policy dialogue for IPEC in Philippines. According to her, “willingness and readiness for a productive dialogue” was the greatest barrier. She further identified “changing of guards due to elections”, “disconnect of national program from the local programs” and “mutual respect in the perspective of actors” to be some of the potential challenges. She laid emphasis on the need to have a “greater clarity and deeper maturity on the role and purpose of NGOs”
The participants also contributed by sharing interesting thoughts on what could catalyse the “process of transition” from dialogues to policy. These included “clear evidence”, “political engagement”, “follow-up” and “continued engagement with decision makers”. Moreover, comments like “persistence” and “consistency” were particularly relevant in the context of World Health Assembly Resolutions or 2030 in Sight. Dr Warapat further reiterated these factors and considered them to be crucial for calling the attention of governments to eye health.
Reflecting on the need for advocacy, Dr Shah drew attention to three main aspects – the need to engage people to seek eye care services, the urge to improve the quality of life and economic productivity resulting from restoration of vision and finally to address the indirect impact of visually impaired individuals on the productivity of their family members.
The panellists unanimously considered eye health professionals as indispensable while considering the inclusion of eye health in UHC. “The experts concluded that “we should never give up” and “unified voice and actions ” will push the eye health agenda forward in universal health coverage.
The session was facilitated by Drew Keys, Regional Manager for Western Pacific, IAPB
Advocacy to Action 2022 is supported by.
- Christian Blind Mission
- Lions Club International Foundation
- OneSight Essilor Luxottica Foundation
- Operation EyeSight