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Malaysia and Nepal Health Ministers to unite at World Health Assembly for Universal Access to Glasses

Published: 06.06.2024

On May 30th, 2024, the governments of Nepal and Malaysia hosted a high-level side event focusing on access to vision care at the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland. Titled “Universal Access to Glasses: Promoting Multisectoral Action,” the event was co-ordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  

This important event underscores the global public health crisis posed by vision impairment. Over 2.2 billion people live with some form of vision impairment, with about 1.1 billion of these cases being avoidable. Uncorrected refractive errors, the most common cause of vision loss, affect an estimated 671 million people worldwide, a number predicted to rise sharply in coming decades. 

The event builds upon positive momentum created by the recent launch of the WHO SPECS initiative, created to coordinate global action on refractive error coverage.  

In 2021, WHO Member States endorsed a global target for refractive error – a 40-percentage point increase in effective coverage of refractive error by 2030. Following global a global advocacy campaign, the ambitious global target was included for the first time in the WHO’s General Programme of Work, agreed at the 77th WHA, thereby cementing eye health and refractive error as a critical component of Universal Health Coverage and the WHO’s work.  

Organisers of the event called on governments, international organisations, the private sector, and civil society to join forces and commit to achieving universal access to affordable and quality eye care, including glasses. You can watch the livestream on the IAPB website 

Commenting on the event Peter Holland, Chief Executive Officer, IAPB said “It is so important for us as a sector to galvanise support from member states, international organisation like WHO and stakeholders from across the sector including business and NGOs to tackle this global health challenge, this is why it is so important to unite behind the same cause.” 

Jennifer Gersbeck, Executive Director – Global Advocacy, The Fred Hollows Foundation, moderator of the event said “With uncorrected refractive error expected to affect more than a third of the global population by 2030, we need to take urgent collective action now. This event brought together experts from across different sectors to help us chart a way forward.”  

Stuart Cockrill, Head of LCM for Myopia Management, CooperVision said “Uncorrected refractive error is one of the biggest silent health crises that impacts educational and work performance so it a true life time disease and disability” 

Dr. Alarcos Cieza - Unit Head, Sensory Function Disability and Rehabilitation, WHO HQ said “This event discussed policy recommendations and strategies such as the WHO’s SPECs initiative to integrate refractive error services into broader healthcare and other systems.”