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One of the critical components of advocacy is communicating evidence in a way that will influence policy decisions. Political leaders have little time to read lengthy reports. Many are unfamiliar with the complex methodologies and technical jargon employed by academics. It is left to advocacy professionals to bridge the communication gap, translating and packaging the evidence into a simple language to present the policy implications.
This is what makes the Vision Atlas such a powerful advocacy tool. It brings together a wealth of complex data and presents it in easy-to-understand formats.
Those of us in the eye care sector know too well the scale of the problem; 1.1 billion people live with vision loss. The inequities: 90% of vision loss is in low- and middle-income countries; 55% are women and girls.
But we also recognise the enormous improvements eye health can make to health, wellbeing, education, work and ultimately the global economy.
The Vision Atlas brings this information into focus. It tells the story of eye health and why it matters.
Now the eye care sector can share this story with everyone.
A year-long advocacy campaign drawing on the VLEG data and the Vision Atlas led in August 2020 to the World Health Assembly adopting a resolution on integrated people-centred eye care, making eye care an integral part of the journey towards Universal Health Coverage.
The visual presentation of eye health data is more important than ever, as much of our advocacy moves online. The Vision Atlas provides a focal point for our engagement: more than 25,000 people have visited the new website since it went live last year.
The latest evidence on the links between eye health and the Sustainable Development Goals highlighted in The Lancet Global Health Commission has spurred the United Nations into action and is helping move forward the first UN General Assembly on Vision.
The Vision Atlas also tells us whether any of our efforts are making a difference. It provides regional and country level data over 30 years. This enables governments, eye care organisations and professionals to track progress and measure the effectiveness of their strategies for eye care.
The Vision Atlas is a living, breathing resource which will continuously be updated. Soon it will be enriched by the inclusion of two new global targets on eye health for 2030, providing a means to hold governments to account. The proposed targets of a 40% increase in the effective coverage of refractive error and a 30% increase of effective coverage of cataract surgery, are due to be adopted at the 74th World Health Assembly this year. They should form part of indicators used to monitor country’s progress toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC menu of indicators).
Data is critical for improving eye health. Poor data on eye health continues to be a challenge. There are severe data gaps particularly for children and younger adults, and a poor country reporting runs the risks WHO global targets being removed from the UHC agenda. We need advocate for the Vision Atlas and push for better collection of eye health data.
The official launch of the Vision Atlas and The Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health at the United Nations this week is a great opportunity to share the story of eye health with global leaders and make this call. The UN is taking notice; evidenced by the impressive line-up of speakers including the President of the General Assembly, the Executive Director of UNICEF, the Director of the International Labour Organisation, and the Assistant Director General of the WHO. Let’s hear what they have to say…
Image: School eye screening by Kedibone Maake