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Eye Health & SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Published: 10.08.2021
Holly Aindow Policy and Advocacy Officer
IAPB

Top 3 Takeaways:

  • To truly address the root causes of poverty, inequality, and instability through the SDGs, concrete steps need to be taken to scale up eyecare and reoriented towards integrated people centred eyecare as part of universal health coverage. This will be crucial to the achievement of SDG 8 decent work.
  • Vision loss is estimated to cost the economy $411bn every year. A pair of prescription glasses can be the difference between having decent work or not.
  • Governments need to be reminded that when they are reactivating their economy, the need to focus and ensure that persons with disabilities play a central role.

The UN Friends of Vision hosted an official UN High Level Political Forum side event. This significant event was attended by over 100 representatives from government, the World Health Organization, civil society, the private sector, and the eye health sector.

The event was moderated by journalist and TV personality, Femi Oke and included keynote addresses from Hon. Sir Molwyn Joseph, Minister of Health, Antigua and Barbuda, Stewart Simonson, Assistant Director-General of the WHO at the United Nations and a panel discussion from Jennifer Gootman, Williams-Sonoma, Ella Gudwin, Vision Spring and Stefan Tromel, International Labour Organisation.

The event focused on the links between vision and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy and the urgent need to tackle unemployment. Vision offers enormous potential to improve economic productivity, enhance employment prospects and increase workplace productivity. Every year the global economy loses at least $411 billion dollars in lost productivity from poor vision – this lost potential can be unlocked.

During his keynote address, Hon Sir Molwyn Joseph, highlighted:

“As we prepare to build back from this pandemic, it is important that we use all our tools to improve eye health and clear vision as potential to help boost the recovery from COVID-19 and rebuild momentum towards SDG achievement. According to the Global Lancet Commission on Global Eye Care, vision loss leads to global economic productivity loss of $411bn annually. By simply providing glasses for near vision impairment can increase productivity by 22%. Noncommunicable diseases, lifestyle changes and ageing population present a growing challenge globally, these are among the reasons our government has helped to lead efforts, placing healthy vision squarely on the SDG context.”

There was also strong support from the World Health Organization, who have been an active member of the Friends of Vision. Assistant Director General, Stewart Simonson said “There is a strong link between eye health and the achievement of the SDGs, especially regarding the goals of reducing poverty, work productivity. This is only possible if eye health services are accessible to everyone.”

Shortly after this important event, the landmark Vision for Everyone: accelerating action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals United Nations General Assembly Resolution was unanimously passed by all 193 countries of the United Nations.

The resolution sets a target for vision for everyone by 2030, with countries set to ensure full access to eye care services for their populations, and to make eye health part of their nation’s journey to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.