Skip to content

Breaking down the silos – Beyond eyes and health

Published: 30.08.2022
Sabrina von Wegerer Coordinadora de Investigación e Incidencia en Política
Fundación Visión
A2A session

The first Advocacy to Action event of 2022 for Latin America was held in Mexico on 15 June with over 140 attendees: Around 40 in person and 100 through the online platform.  

The programme discussed 2030 In Sight sector strategy and other recent global advocacy developments and further dwelled on the opportunities and actions that eye health advocates and organizations can embark on in the regions context.  The programme showcased three examples from Guatemala, Bolivia, and Paraguay, presenting the importance and need for elevating vision as a fundamental, economic, social and development issue, integrating eye health in wider health systems, and activating universal demand by influencing consumers and markets: the three pillars of 2030 In Sight. 

The event was hosted by APEC, Hospital de la Ceguera and had Dra Valeria Sanchez from APEC, Dr. Juan Carlos Silva, formerly of WHO, Dr. Martinez Castro, IAPB Regional Chair Latin America, Dr. Juan Francisco Yee from Visualiza Guatemala,  Dra. Liliam Zamorano from CBM Bolivia and Dr. Alejandro Panotto from Fundación Visión Paraguay as speakers. The panel discussion that followed the short presentations emphasized that the sector must be ‘together’ not because it’s simpler, or quicker even, but because it will help us reach the unreached more efficiently and effectively and will ensure that 2030 is in sight. 

IAPB acknowledges the support of SEVA Foundation, CBM, OneSight EssilorLuxxotica Foundation, Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF), Roche, Novartis and Operation EyeSight Universal (OEU) for Advocacy to Action 2022 programme. We also thank APEC, Hospital de la Ceguera who hosted our event. 

The Narrative 

In Mexico City, organizations in eye health came together to position themselves as allies for the next decade: Allies to Global Strategy 2030 In sight, to the people in their countries that also desire people-centered care, and to each other. People from all over the continent joined them through the platform to show support and learn.  

Dra Valeria Sanchez, from APEC, host of the event, invited everyone in the virtual and present room to join forces. “We could leverage the positive aftermath of the pandemic like the virtual academic collaboration”, she suggested and urged to include women in leadership and academia to accelerate the reach to people with blindness or vision loss which might be avoidable today but not so tomorrow. Dr Juan Carlos Silva joined virtually, presenting different studies and highlighting evidence that associates vision impairment and blindness with illiteracy and poverty and reduced dementia risks etc. These facts, he pointed out, be a sound basis to look beyond the eye sector to form alliances with organizations that care about the elderly, for instance. Dr Martinez Castro, reflected on the legacy of Vision 2020 and how it allowed to closely observe the development of vision in developed vs. developing countries. It left us with essential tools like RAAB, RACS, and vision committees. It included public health in the training of ophthalmologists. It helped us see that integrating telemedicine, optometrists, and technicians is crucial to reaching the vulnerable”.. “, He pointed out that Latin America still has a lot to address especially problems like Cataracts and Refractive Error.  

Dra Luisa Casas, opened the meeting, held entirely in Spanish for the first time. She thanked everyone that made it possible and introduced the pillars of this joined pursuit: ELEVATE, INTEGRATE and ACTIVATE. Specialists told the stories of how their organizations intertwined with the Global Strategy pillars. Dr Juan Francisco Yee from Visualiza Guatemala showed what it means to elevate eye health in his country. “To reach the integrality of service in eye care, one must care about nutrition and internal medicine”, he exemplified. He stressed the importance of knowing what the patient feels and thinks, as the groundwork for policies; he presented the challenges of sharing the values of quality, efficiency, and volume with the next generation. 

Liliam Zamorano from CBM Bolivia shared how integrating the government and other sectors has broadened what their organization can do alone. “It has helped to train doctors who are prepared to make house visits. The costs of these interventions were added to the budgets of municipalities and governments, which helps to make them more sustainable”. Furthermore, working with the Ministry of Education has meant that they were allowed to enter schools for eye check-ups. Dr Alejandro Panotto from Fundación Visión Paraguay presented what activating looked like during the past World Sight Day October 2021in their organization. Rural campaigns to the Paraguayan Chaco were held in association with the Ministry of Education, The Lions Club International, USAID, and Municipalities. He highlighted how important it is to work alongside other institutions to break barriers that currently block access of services from people. “We all cannot do everything on our own. We must divide the work, to achieve together.” he concluded. 

Once the short presentations were over, questions from the audience online and in-person were received. Dra. Valeria said that one of the ideas she takes home was that educating non-ophthalmologists in eye health is the way forward since the former will not be able to quench the ever-growing demand. MPH. Olivia from Fundación Visión pointed out that being part of the National Eye Health Committee CONAVIP has been very important to Fundación Visión as it allows them to work together on National Plans and carry out projects jointly. She said that she knows from experience that the Ministry of Education should be included in child eye health projects. Dr Martinez Castro added that organizations and institutions working with disability also make strategic allies for our sector. 

So, if one could just pick a word to summarize this meeting, it would have to be “together.” We should work together to achieve better results in a shorter time, not because it’s simpler or quicker even but because this will take us further across sectors, with new partners… and it might just be what it takes to reach 2030 In Sight!

Video Transcript