Dr May Ho, Fred Hollows Foundation Australia
Dr Nor Anita Omar, Ministry of Health, Malaysia
Dr Aslina Mokhtar, Universiti Sains Islam, Malaysia
As we closed out 2021, IAPB together with the Ministry of Health Malaysia, brought together participants from across the region to review steps undertaken since the joint Western Pacific IAPB-WHO meeting on Cataract Surgical Outcomes. Held in 2018, it was anticipated that there would not have been much movement since the onset of the pandemic. Indeed there have been significant challenges and roadblocks. But to say we have been completely inactive would do a gross disservice to so many people working tirelessly across the region.
We were delighted to have the Director General of Health in Malaysia open the meeting – highlighting the ongoing importance placed on eye health by the Malaysian Ministry of Health.
In the first session, Dr Andreas Mueller shared the three most important outcomes from the 2018 meeting, while Ms Jennifer Gersbeck, the Fred Hollows Foundation and IAPB Gender Equity Work Group Chair, provided updates on intersectionality and gender equity. Dr Nor Fariza and Prof Sangchul Yoon talked about the impact of WHA resolutions to eye health services in Malaysia and South Korea respectively. Dr Fabrizio D’Esposito updated the members about the White Paper (For the Future) in non-communicable disease management, that also covers eye health and cataract surgical coverage. And at the end of the segment, Dr Andreas Mueller updated the members with regards to the various tools and framework provided by WHO to support member state countries implement their strategies towards achieving IPEC.
In the second session, country representatives presented the current situation of cataract surgery outcomes monitoring activities in their countries, the barriers and challenges following the pandemic and their future expectations.
Poor cataract surgical outcomes remain a serious issue in this region. Snapshots of cataract surgery activities in the Western Pacific region provided updates of the work in the region, but also the challenges. “What next?” also needs to be considered. The WHO World Report on Vision and the 2021 74th World Health Assembly resolution advocates for integrated people-centred eye care and effective cataract surgical coverage. The recent IAPB Strategy – 2030 In Sight emphasised on strategies that will be able to ‘Elevate, Integrate and Activate’ our services. There is much work still to be done to bring all of this together – but its ongoing and with a brighter 2022 on the horizon the meeting agreed to develop a regional response before the next meeting in 12 months’ time.