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Millions upon millions of children are without vision care – and for them the issue is pressing. This we know. What we are currently working towards is the solution to get all of them access to services.
Unfortunately, most efforts to address child eye health fall far short of need. As a result, children are facing increased vision impairment on an unprecedented level. As their lifestyles shift to limited time outdoors and increased time doing near work, myopia is threatening to become the most pressing public health issue of their generation.
For those of us in the IAPB family, in the area of child eye health, we have three major tasks –
The good news is that we have the solutions and expertise to make an impact. The struggle is that we need governments, where health services are free-of-cost services and a responsibility of the state, to understand that resources must be allocated and vision services belong amongst top priority health services.
The job falls to all of us to advocate – and advocate beyond growing small-scale projects. We need to be focusing on creating political motivation and a passion for eye care amongst governments and other service providers. Generating a political environment where national and international policy delivers on commitments to the prevention of blindness and provision of eye-health services for all children.
Our Children’s Vision, a global coalition focused on upscaling and accelerating eye health services to children, has its targets set on impacting policy. This is ambitious, but Our Children’s Vision is working as a catalyst to drive efforts and unite organisations under a common goal. By advocating changes in policy and practice at national, regional and global levels, Our Children’s Vision is shining a light on the importance of child eye health and the impact that poor vision can have on a child’s educational attainments and social development.
IAPB and Our Children’s Vision believe that school health programmes play a critical role in improving the eye health and vision of children. By changing policy, these programs become comprehensive and eye-health will be included amongst other important health interventions for children, like vaccines, nutrition and dental.
I remind you that we have the expertise to design and implement systems, we know how to tackle myopia – but this World Optometry Day I encourage you to think about the impact policy has on the vision of children around the world. It is through policy that this generation of children will see more clearly and so will the many generations that follow.
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IAPB is a Global Supporter in Our Children’s Vision. Our Children’s Vision supplements IAPB’s advocacy efforts and supports the technical and operational dimensions of IAPB’s School Eye Health initiatives. For more information on Our Children’s Vision visit www.ourchildrensvision.org
Image: School children in Pakistan pose for a photo. By Mohammed Omer for #EyeCareEverywhere photo competition