A call to eye health sector on Universal Health Coverage Day 2022 to build the world we want.
Three years ago, the global eye sector successfully called for the inclusion of eye health in the first Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). A landmark achievement in global health and development, the declaration established the most comprehensive set of health commitments ever adopted and committed Heads of State to strengthen efforts to address eye health conditions as part of universal health coverage.
In September 2023, the second High-Level Meeting on UHC will be convened at UN Headquarters in New York to review progress on the implementation of the 2019 political declaration and to identify gaps and solutions to accelerate progress towards the achievement of UHC by 2030. A second action-oriented political declaration will be adopted at that time. Building on progress made, and in support of the implementation of the UN resolution on Vision, alliances and global advocates across the sector must come together to press decision makers to prioritize and reinforce the conclusion that eye healthcare is an integral component of UHC and to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and SDG Target 3.8.
Since 2019, the global eye health sector has made significant policy gains that have strengthened our political position and reframed preventable sight loss as a major cross-cutting development issue. The WHO’s World Report on Vision, WHA resolution 73.4 on Integrated People-Centred Eye Care (IPEC) and Global Eye Health Targets for eCSC and eREC endorsed by the 74th WHA, the Lancet Global Eye Health Review and the UN Resolution on Vision provide a strategic framework of evidence, guidance and accountability mechanisms to move the eye care agenda forward in the coming decade and ensure eye care for everyone by 2030.
Despite these successes, current eye care services are unlikely to keep pace with the increasing need associated with population, demographic, behavioral, and lifestyle trends that have led, and will continue to lead, to an increase in the number of eye conditions, like myopia, and the exacerbation of other health conditions such as dementia, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Education opportunities, earning potential and improved quality of life will fall out of reach for the most vulnerable and marginalized. National efforts to provide affordable, high quality and accessible eye care to all will be critical to meeting the growing challenge eye health will place on health systems across the world and help build strong and resilient health systems. It will ensure physical health, mental health, and well-being.
Universal Health Coverage Day 2022 marks a rallying point for all stakeholders to amplify the voices of the 1.1 billion people, including 450 million children, who are suffering the physical, emotional and socioeconomic consequences of preventable sight loss because they don’t have access to basic services. Taking a multi-sectoral approach that acknowledges the intersectionality of vision, health and development, we must ensure that the 2023 Political Declaration on UHC commits global leaders to accelerating national efforts to address eye health as an integral part of UHC and improve social, economic and health security for all. Together, we can build the world we want. A world with no preventable sight loss.
Image on top: Eye Screening at Jukwa, Ghana by Kwame Yeboah.