This September, a series of High-Level Meetings (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the fight against Tuberculosis, and Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (PPPR) will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York during the general debate of the Assembly’s 78th session. These three issues encompass the diverse and complex health threats people face around our world. UHC and PPPR are closely intertwined with eye health care, impacting millions of individuals who lack access to or cannot afford such services. The 2023 meetings present a crucial opportunity to cement the sector’s voice and influence in global health policy discussions, as well as mobilize national action and political commitment regarding vision and eye health, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where the need is most prevalent.
What are High-Level Meetings?
The UNGA frequently decides to organize High-Level Meetings (HLM) to raise awareness and foster consensus among heads of state regarding significant global issues for the benefit of people worldwide. These meetings provide an opportunity to catalyze political commitment, drive progress, and generate concrete action and financial resources to address specific global challenges. HLMs also involve the participation of top UN management, government officials, scientific, business, and civil society leaders.
What is the Outcome of a High-Level Meeting?
Each of the 2023 High-Level Meetings (HLMs) will lead to a concise, action-oriented Political Declaration. Each declaration is based on a comprehensive review of the implementation of previous declarations, lessons learned from COVID-19, identified gaps, and evidence-based recommendations.
The 2019 Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage marked the first time eye health was successfully advocated for inclusion in a formal UN policy outcome document. It committed Heads of State to strengthening efforts to address eye health conditions as part of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This milestone holds great significance for the global eye health community as it recognizes that UHC cannot be achieved without addressing eye health.
What Do We Hope to Achieve for Eye Health?
The global eye health sector, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), has long advocated that eye health services are essential and should be integrated into every country’s journey towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The WHO’s World Report on Vision guides countries in strengthening eye care within their health systems and across sectors. This includes incorporating eye health into essential services to reduce untreated sight loss and improve overall health, well-being, safety, and productivity. Additionally, addressing sight loss beyond healthcare, in areas like education and industry, aligns with the central commitment of the 2030 Agenda to “leave no one behind.”
To further strengthen the commitment made in 2019 and support the implementation of the UN resolution on Vision, which committed all member states to ensure eye care for everyone by 2030, IAPB and the Friends of Vision group are pushing for the Political Declaration of the High-Level Meeting on UHC in 2023 to call on Heads of States to reaffirm their commitment to accelerate efforts to address eye health as an integral part of Universal Health Coverage, and to mobilize the necessary resources and support to reach, by 2030, the 1.1 billion people who have a vision impairment and currently do not have access to the eye care services that they need in order to build a more equitable and sustainable future.
There is a strong rationale for increasing the coverage of eye care interventions as part of making health systems better prepared and more robust and resilient in the event of a pandemic. This approach not only removes the burden of untreated sight loss but also enhances general health, wellbeing, safety, and productivity. Recognizing the growing need for eye care services worldwide, the IAPB and the Friends of Vision group aim for the 2023 Political Declaration on PPPR to encourage Heads of State to acknowledge the disproportionate impact of eye health conditions on people in vulnerable situations and urge positive measures to ensure and increase access to essential eye care services.
Image on top: Community Health Nurse Isaac Baiden assesses a villager’s visual acuity in Jei Krodua, Awutu Senya District in Ghana’s Central Region/Neil Oakshott