The Africa Advocacy to Action event presented the need and the case for initiating dialogues with governments and stakeholders by advocates of eye health to set the 2030 In Sight strategic plan in action in the region. The presentations & discussions focussed on approaches and need to generate robust data and evidence to help targeted advocacy plans and interventions increasing equity in eyecare services and for its inclusion in Universal Health Coverage. The expert panel further explored using evidence and its gaps as policy hooks for advocacy and how the global commitments on eye health, targets and indicators will help supplement the dialogues.
The session had three presentations:
- ‘Universal Health Coverage: The Eye Care story’ by Dr Aaron Magava, Regional Chair, Sub Saharan Africa, IAPB & Medical Advisor, Inclusive Eye Health, CBM.
- ‘Framing Advocacy Asks for Data & Evidence – The Eye Care Indicators, A perspective from Ghana’ by Dr Boateng Wiafe, Technical Advisor – Operation Eyesight Universal & Medical Director, Watborg Eye Services.
- “IAPB national multi-sectoral systems review Advocacy to Action 2022 –Africa” by Patricia Martin, Director Advocacy Aid.
Dr Aaron through his presentation underscored the importance of generating robust data in a timely manner to build a stronger case for eye health advocacy. He suggested adopting “operational research” to generate higher quality- evidence and develop robust indicators to evaluate eyecare.
Some interesting real-life evidence on the impact of effective advocacy were highlighted by Dr Boateng. He shared insights from Ghana, where they have been able to bring in significant changes through their advocacy efforts which include the introduction of a national cataract surgical program, “price-drop of Anti-Glaucoma medications” and the contribution of affordable glasses by NGOs. The experts not only talked through approaches but also shared details of the tools developed in this context. Patricia Martin spoke about the Multisectoral Systems Review tool which can help leverage maximum advocacy considering ‘vision’ as a right based “sustainable development imperative”. She further emphasized on how crucial it is to ground advocacy efforts in “legal responsibilities”.
The event also included a panel discussion with the following panellists.
- Dr Tesfaye Haileselassie Adera, Senior Global Technical Lead for Eye Health – ECSA, Sightsavers International.
- Dr Prebo Barango, Medical Officer Non-Communicable Diseases, Multi Country Assignment Team (MCAT) Malawi, Namibia Zambia and Zimbabwe, WHO AFRO .
- Dr Mwiti Makathimo, Head of External Affairs & Strategic Partnerships/Programs, East Africa Cluster, Novartis Global Health.
The panel deep dived into eye care targets in UHC and further explored advocating for inclusion of these in national plans. Beginning with ‘why should we discuss data and evidence in advocacy and the importance of reframing advocacy asks for and with evidence. The panel explored how the commitments at global level for 2030 eye care targets can trigger and facilitate policy action at national level. All panellists unanimously agreed on “evidence” being critical to strengthening advocacy efforts as we deal with competing and emerging health issues and limited resources. Specifically adapting the discussion to Africa, the panel shared their top tips when advocating for evidence for policy action and what they consider as top priorities for advocacy action in the region. Dr Tesfaye considered evidence talks and phrasing to be the top two tips for advocacy action.
One of the key points highlighted by Dr Mwiti when asked “Why is it urgent to reframe the advocacy response” was the need to focus on not just the problem but working on generating evidence-based solutions and having a roadmap towards the implementation of solutions. As the gravity of “evidence” echoed throughout the session, considering how challenging generating good- quality evidence can get due to various reasons, he also suggested the “best approaches” to develop evidence for a country which may/may not be well resourced. He recommended using ECSAT for situation analysis and extrapolating data based on existing data or data from neighbouring countries.
The session garnered some interesting comments and insights from the participants too. One such comment from one of the attendees was “the only health language that our politicians understand is NCDs and it’s the only risk they pay attention to. Why not make it clear that most eye conditions are NCDs and most NCDs cause eye conditions including blindness”. This was considered as a great take home message.
The session was facilitated by Simon Day, IAPB Africa Programme Manager.
This event was supported by the following sponsors.
- Christian Blind Mission
- Lions Club International Foundation
- OneSight Essilor Luxottica Foundation
- Operation Eyesight