VISION 2020: The Right to Sight was launched in 1999. It sought to promote: “A world in which nobody is needlessly visually impaired, where those with unavoidable vision loss can achieve their full potential.”
The Global Initiative was set up to: “Intensify and accelerate prevention of blindness activities so as to achieve the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness by 2020.”
It sought to do this by: “Focussing initially on certain diseases which are the main causes of blindness and for which proven cost effective interventions are available.”
The VISION 2020 Global Initiative has subsequently been complemented and built upon by a series of additional plans. In 2006, VISION 2020 stakeholders developed an action plan for the period 2006-11, which extended the remit to focus not only upon the elimination of avoidable blindness, but to include visual impairment – particularly that caused by uncorrected refractive error.
In addition, four World Health Assembly resolutions (2003, 2006, 2009 and 2013) have reinforced the aim and objectives of VISION 2020. The last two resolutions were accompanied by WHO Action Plans which have provided more detail on how the objectives were to be achieved. They also helped refine some of the implementation approaches.
Global Action Plan
The most recent action plan “Universal Eye Health: A global action plan 2014 – 2019“ (GAP) was unanimously adopted by Member States at the World Health Assembly in 2013 as part of WHA resolution 66.4. This latest plan has an overall vision that restates that of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight. It also adds a further dimension around “universal access to comprehensive eye care services.”
The GAP also sets itself a Global Target. It aims to reduce “prevalence of avoidable visual impairment by 25% by 2019” (compared to the baseline prevalence of 2010). This is now seen as a more realistic global target as to what can be achieved by the end of this decade, rather than the original target of global elimination by 2020. Some individual countries may achieve, or be close to, elimination by 2020.
The long-term goal of both the GAP and VISION 2020 remain the same – to rid the world of avoidable blindness and visual impairment. It is a shocking fact that in the 21st Century there are still some 285m visually impaired and blind persons and that 80% of these cases could have been prevented or treated.
VISION 2020 has made a huge difference to global eye health. It has created a major focus in the countries and districts where action is needed.
Awareness of the VISION 2020 brand remains strong. The aims, aspirations, principles and approaches that were at the heart of the original Initiative remain in place to this day.