World Sight Day 2014: No More Avoidable Blindness

Thursday, October 9, marks the 39th annual World Sight Day, held every October to raise awareness about blindness and visual impairment. This year, the ‘Call to Action’ for World Sight Day is: No More Avoidable Blindness.

 

Fighting Blindness, as part of the National Vision Coalition, have been working to eliminate avoidable blindness in Ireland for some time now and echo this call to action from the IAPB (International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness) on World Sight Day 2014.

The National Vision Coalition is a multi-stakeholder group created by Fighting Blindness and the NCBI – The National Sight Loss Agency along with healthcare professionals, patient representatives and people working in vision-related advocacy and healthcare. In November 2012 the coalition published the document ‘Framework to Adopt a Strategic Approach for Vision Health in Ireland’. The framework report highlights some of the statistics around sight loss and the impact that this has on the Irish healthcare system. Over 224,000 people in Ireland are blind or vision impaired and this figure is expected to increase by 20% by 2020. As part of the framework document the National Vision Coalition proposed a number of principles to guide the development of a future national strategy, these include;

  • Any future strategy must include the full agenda of eye health for children and adults
  • Maximising quality and assuring the safety of all who access services will be the first consideration at all times
  • All services and supports will be provided on a person-centred basis with a core emphasis on adopting a life-course approach
  • People with sight loss will have the supports in place to enable them to live fulfilled lives, exercising choice and control in their lives
  • Services will be provided using seamless pathways traversing health care, social care and the voluntary sector
  • Resource allocation and service design will be guided by evidence-based approaches where equality of access to treatment, rehabilitation and support is prioritised
  • Research will serve as a key enabler in our continuous commitment to improve outcomes and the quality of care provided
  • The strategic development of eye health and support care in Ireland will be aligned as appropriate with the wider Public Health policy framework

In July 2013 the National Vision Coalition presented the ‘Framework to Adopt a Strategic Approach for Vision Health in Ireland’ to TDs, calling on the government to implement recommendations which focus on eye health in Ireland, specifically the elimination of avoidable blindness, in line with the VISION 2020* initiative, which the Irish government signed up to in 2003.

In April 2014 the National Vision Coalition launched a report on the ‘Economic Cost and Burden of Eye Disease and Preventable Blindness in Ireland’ and called for the immediate implementation of a National Vision Strategy. The aim of the report – which is part of a pan-European study of 16 countries by Deloitte – was to analyse the impact and burden of blindness and the most prevalent eye diseases in Ireland, and to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of interventions to prevent eye disease and blindness. The report found that five people per week became blind in Ireland since 2010, despite 75 to 80% of blindness being preventable. It reinforces the immediate need to eliminate avoidable sight loss in Ireland and reflects similar findings in countries across Europe. You can read more about the report launch here.

On July 3, 2014, the National Vision Coalition presented to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health seeking development of a National Vision Strategy. This was followed on July 8 by a statement in the Dáil by Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, about the economic cost and burden of preventable eye disease in Ireland and the need for a National Vision Strategy.

On July 16, Seanad Eireann debated a motion on the implementation of a National Vision Strategy. The motion called for the Minister of Health to act upon the recommendations of the National Vision Coalition to implement cost-effective measures to prevent avoidable blindness in Ireland. The motion received cross-party support and was backed unanimously by the Seanad. The motion was put forward by Senator Martin Conway who is the Government spokesperson on Justice, Disability and Equality in the Seanad.

Image of World Sight Day No More Avoidable Blindness Logo

Today, on World Sight Day 2014, Fighting Blindness reflects on the trojan work completed so far by the National Vision Coalition to eliminate avoidable blindness in Ireland and again call on the government to implement a National Vision Strategy.

 

 

*VISION 2020, which began in the year 2000, is the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, a joint programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). In May 2013 the 66th World Health Assembly unanimously approved the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment 2014-2019 – Towards Universal Eye Health. The Global Action Plan (GAP) is a commitment endorsed by all WHO Member States to improve eye health for everyone over the next five years. It builds upon and replaces previousVISION 2020 and 2009 – 2013 Action Plans. Its goal is to reduce avoidable visual impairment as a global public health problem and to secure access to rehabilitation services for people who are visually impaired.