It has been a busy year for the IAPB advocacy team. There have been a number of exciting developments and a few important firsts for eye health. Here are our top three highlights from the year.
Launch of the World Report on Vision and working towards a World Health Assembly Resolution
The long anticipated World Report on Vision was launched on the eve of World Sight Day in Geneva by the WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The 160-page report sets out concrete proposals to address the significant challenges in delivering eye care over the next decade – chief among them is to integrate and scale-up “people-centred eye care” into national health systems. We worked with our fantastic communication team to produce a shareable snapshot of the report’s key messages in the form of an infographic and short film.
To ensure real action on the World Report, we have been working with The Fred Hollows Foundation, Sightsavers, CBM and Light for the World to champion a World Health Resolution at the 73rd World Health Assembly next year. The first critical milestone was to get eye health included on the agenda of the WHO Executive Board – a particular challenge this year as there was increased competition due to a shortened WHA next year. The proposal, led by Australia and Indonesia, had strong support from Austria, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Pakistan, Singapore, Tonga and all the member states of the South East Asia Region. The proposal was accepted by the WHO Executive Bureau (the leadership of the Executive Board) and a resolution on “Integrated People-Centred Eye Care” will be considered in February next year. Now the negotiations get to the nitty gritty. A huge thank you to Brandon Ah Tong from The Fred Hollows Foundation who has been leading this process.
Eye health included in landmark United Nations Declaration on Universal Health Coverage
During this year’s UN General Assembly, world leaders adopted a UN Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The declaration provides a high-level framework for the implementation of UHC by 2030 and calls on member states as well as other stakeholders to scale up the global effort to build a healthier world for all. The WHO described the declaration as the most comprehensive set of health commitments to be adopted at this level.
The declaration included a commitment to strengthen efforts to address eye health conditions at paragraph 34. This is an important milestone for the global eye health community as it recognises that UHC cannot be achieved without eye health.
IAPB and members followed the negotiations of the political declaration, meeting over 12 missions in the UN and providing input through the UN Friends of Vision. You can read more about the lobbying process here.
Of course, the adoption of the Political Declaration on UHC is only the first step. IAPB will be working to advance the issue of eye health further at the UN next year and to advocate at the next high-level meeting on health in 2023.
Eye health takes over the United Nations for a week
It was all about eye health at the UN during the week of 18 November.
First, we launched the World Report on Vision at the UN on 19 November. This was the first in our series of launches of the World Report. The event was co-hosted by the UN Friends of Vision and the WHO, with support from IAPB, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Sightsavers, Clearly and the Vision Council of America.
More than 60 Ambassadors, UN staff and civil society representatives gathered in conference room 7 to hear about the Report’s finding and recommendations, and crucially its implications for advancing the Sustainable Development Goals agenda. In recognition of the increasing importance of this issue at the UN level, the President of the General Assembly President, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande closed the event by stating ‘there is no question that the issue of healthcare for the world is critical, and within it, not enough attention has been paid to eye health’.
To raise attention, we took over the UN Secretariat Lobby on 21 November for our Eye Health Exhibition and Vision Screening. The exhibition was designed to be multi-purpose, providing free screenings or exams to anyone who might need them, yet also providing information relevant to all those working to advance the SDG agenda at the United Nations.
We worked with OneSight and VisionSpring to demonstrate the range of screening options one might encounter around the world, including comprehensive eye exams. We screened over 500 Ambassadors and UN staff as well speaking to countless more about the various ways governments can enable greater access to eye health in their own countries.
Next year will be a milestone year for the eye health community. We will see the end of VISION 2020 and the Global Action Plan. But it also the beginning of a decade when we need to set a new agenda for eye health. We have a new strategy, a new World Report on Vision, and a new profile for eye health at the UN.
Looking ahead, IAPB will be working with the WHO to coordinate roughly 50 national launches across all six WHO regions to promote and embed the Report’s recommendations. Please do get in touch with Holly Aindow, Policy and Advocacy Officer if you would like to get involved. We will also continue to raise the global profile of eye – crucially at the World Health Assembly, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and at the United Nations.
Image on top: A man smiles as he gets his eyes tested/Photo Credit: Suman Singh for #VisionFirst photo competition