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Commonwealth Health Ministers Commit to Enhancing Eye Health

Published: 29.05.2024

At their annual meeting this weekend, Commonwealth Health Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to eye health as a cornerstone of universal health coverage (UHC) and health security. The ministers pledged to scale up efforts across the Commonwealth, recognising eye health’s critical role in overall well-being, education, and economic productivity.

The meeting highlighted the progress made in eliminating trachoma and providing children with eye care services throughout the Commonwealth. This commitment was further emphasised during a breakfast meeting organised by the Vision for the Commonwealth Coalition, attended by representatives from various Commonwealth nations and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The breakfast meeting focused on the vital link between eye health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes. Hon. Valasi Luapitofanua To’ogamaga Tafito Selesele, Minister of Health of Samoa, opened the meeting sharing Samoa’s proactive approach to integrating eye health into national NCD strategies. Dr. Saia Piukala, Western Pacific Regional Director of WHO, underscored the interconnected nature of NCDs and vision health, stating, ”Vision health is not a luxury, it’s essential for development.”

The meeting also heard from Brandon Ah Tong, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Fred Hollows Foundation and Carole Poloso, Chief Ophthalmologist of the Soloman Islands and PacEYES Executive Secretary, both giving their own personal reflections on the importance of affordable, available and accessible eye health.

In a demonstration of growing momentum, ministers reiterated their commitment to accelerating a multi-sector approach to address eye health challenges. This includes promoting innovative solutions and ensuring accessible and equitable eye care for all Commonwealth citizens. The ministers expressed anticipation for a Global Eye Health Summit in 2026, which will further galvanise global action on eye health.

“We are grateful to Commonwealth Health Ministers for their ongoing commitment to eye health,” said James Chen, IAPB Global Ambassador and a founding member of the Vision for the Commonwealth Coalition. ”Ministers have recognised the critical role eye health plays in overall health, including in tackling non-communicable diseases, as well as wider well-being, education, and economic productivity.”

The Vision for the Commonwealth Coalition, comprising IAPB, Sightsavers, Fred Hollows Foundation, Peek Vision, and the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC), collected signatures at the meeting calling for accelerated global action on eye health. Notable signatories included WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland, and sixteen country representatives. The Coalition will continue its work in the lead-up to the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Samoa later this year.