On July 21- 22, IAPB members from the Southeast Asia region met in Hyderabad for the IAPB SEAR meeting on “2030 In Sight – Implementing Integrated People Centred Eye Care in South-East Asia”.
The hybrid meeting invited over 100 participants, either joining in-person or online from Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Indonesia. The meeting had representation from prominent eye health leaders, IAPB members, NGOs and institutions, including representation from World Health Organization and government ministries of the region.
Dr Rohit C Khanna, IAPB Southeast Asia Regional Chair, while inaugurating the meeting mentioned, “The opportunity despite the huge challenge in Southeast Asia is the collective action of all the stakeholders involved in eye health. We all have to come together embracing this strategy and set out action plans to implement at the national and regional level.”
Dr GN Rao, Founder LVPEI clearly mentioned how critical the timing of the new strategy is, right after the Vision 2020: The right to sight initiative’s end, to carry on the momentum in eye health advocacy while presenting on “Eye health: perspective and future directions”.
The situation analysis of eye health in Southeast Asia, presented in the meeting, showed the prevalence of vision impairment and blindness in the countries which ranged from 11% in the Maldives to 22% in Nepal. Furthermore, the summary analysis revealed gaps in human workforce, data availability, access to ophthalmic equipment and optical materials etc in the region.
To address these gaps, the participants engaged in group work sessions in line with the three pillars of the strategy: Elevate, Integrate and Activate. The participants identified major action points to begin with implementation of the strategy. Some of the major action points identified includes the following:
- Make eye health a campaign agenda to influence decision makers and politicians
- Explore and utilise opportunities to meet with think tanks for interpreting the evidence on the economic impact of eye health, to the policy makers
- Approach the policy makers but at the same time create awareness in the general population at the bottom level to ensure that the decisions made aligns with the values of people and are implementable
- Build an ecosystem for the policy (policy window)
- Design IPEC based on country scenario but keeping in mind the principle
- Leverage existing system in the model of primary eye care integration
- Map available human resources and training institutions along with competency requirements to address the eye care needs and act accordingly
- Use technology to assist in capturing, monitoring, and reporting on data
- Advocate to reduce tax and custom duty on assistive products like spectacles and low vision devices
- Consider social influencers as ambassadors to tackle the stigma
- Utilize opportunity to promote eye health on World Sight Day, Eye Donation Day, World Glaucoma Day, World Diabetes Day, Children’s Day week etc.
The participants agreed on the fact that inclusion of eye health is non-negotiable while integration is an opportunity for which innovations are the solution. The critical start point would be acting together from the outset for a common goal to reach the unreached population.