Hugh Taylor is a giant in eye health, and has played various roles over the decades. He was a vice-president of IAPB and a Regional Chair of IAPB West Pacific among many key roles in the sector. He discusses some of the achievements of VISION 2020 in this ‘Vision Excellence‘ blog series to mark the end of VISION 2020.
What does VISION 2020 mean to you? What was its impact on eye care service and delivery around the world?
VISION 2020 brought together all the stakeholders interested in eye care by bringing together the NGO members of IAPB and the national governments as members of WHO. It set for the first time a global target for the provision of eye care with a clear advocacy message to back it up. It took a comprehensive public health approach to the provision of eye care for those causes of vision loss that were amenable to such interventions. It was inclusive of age, gender and nationality. And it set clear targets.
The simple approach of “The right to sight for all” spurred a great increase in activities around the world. Major funding came for significant donors for large programmes, many national governments increased their programmes and many NGOs successfully built on the VISION 2020 message for their own fundraising.
Although the world’s population has grown and is becoming increasingly older; although the actual number of people with blindness and vision loss has increased, the age-specific prevalence of blindness and vision loss in those over 55 years has decreased significantly. This is a great achievement. It shows clearly that we know what to do and when we do it is works. What is needed now is more support to expand and integrate eye services as is set out in the World Report on Vision.
One of VISION 2020’s key role was to bring eye care to the attention of policy holders – can you think of one or two key politicians from the region who began to take eye care seriously thanks to our advocacy?
In the Australian context we have had successive governments that have strongly supported the new initiatives and impetus around eye care that were contained in VISION 2020. This is true whether we look at the provision and promotion of eye care eye care for Australia as a whole, the provision of eye care including the elimination of trachoma for Indigenous Australians, or the funding the Australian government has provided to support eye care in many low and middle income countries in the Pacific, Asia and Africa.
Barry Jones a former Australian Government minister was the Chairman of Vision 2020 Australia for many years. Vision 2020 Australia was the first of a number of national coalitions formed to help progress the goals and aspirations of VISION 2020. Amanda Vanstone, also a former Australian minister, is its current Chair. Equally, Bob McMullan was very active in supporting VISION 2020 activities while he was the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance and he is the current chair of IAPB.
VISION 2020 helped bring the sector together. What key aspects of VISION 2020 helped bring diverse stakeholders together?
A lot of the success of VISION 2020 was because of the work of Christian Garms and Allen Foster who brought together the many various agendas and disparate approaches used by different NGOs and developed the simple messages and straight forward goals and objectives. They worked very closely with Bjorn Thylefors at WHO to develop VISION 2020. Together they built on the work that had been done by various groups since 1976 when both the IAPB and the WHO Prevention of Blindness Program were started. People could grasp and understand terms and phrases like “the right to sight for all” and “cataract surgery rate”, the number of eye care providers per million population, even “avoidable blindness”!
What do you think was VISION 2020’s biggest achievement?
VISION 2020 had several very significant achievements. First from an NGO perspective, it brough the sector together and allowed it to talk with one voice. This helped focus both advocacy and activities. It also really put avoidable blindness on the WHO and member state’s agendas. It led to four resolutions at the World Health Assembly about addressing blindness and vision loss with WHO Action Plans in 2006 and 2013. Together these have had a significant impact on the development of eye care services and the amount of blindness and vision loss. It has clearly shown we know what to do and it works. Now the challenge is to scale up all the activities to achieve integrated people-centred eye care.