Landmark Lancet Global Health Commission Report Outlines the Essential Role Vision Care Plays

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NEW YORK—A landmark report was published this week in The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, outlining The Lancet Global Health Commission: Global Eye Health: Vision Beyond 2020, which outlines and corroborates the fact that while 1.1 billion people live with blindness or impairment to distant or near vision, over 90 percent of cases can be prevented or treated with existing cost-effective interventions. The Lancet Global Health Commission website also details the report, related papers and content that addresses the challenges but emphasizes the fundamental role that eyecare plays in peoples' lives, productivity and development around the world.

The Commission argues that improving eye health is essential to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development goals and provides recommendations to improve eye health for all.

The report stated, "We harness lessons learned from over two decades, present the growing evidence for the life-transforming impact of eyecare, and provide a thorough understanding of rapid developments in the field. This report was created through a broad consultation involving experts within and outside the eyecare sector to help inform governments and other stakeholders about the path forward for eye health beyond 2020, to further the Sustainable Development Goals (including universal health coverage), and work toward a world without avoidable vision loss."

Estimates from the report project that the 1.1 billion people living with untreated vision impairment in 2020 is expected to grow to 1.8 billion by 2050.. New estimates indicate that addressing preventable sight loss could bring global economic benefits of US$411 billion a year, and is essential to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including reducing poverty and inequality, and improving education and access to work.

To help achieve immediate and substantial benefits for societies and people living with vision impairment, expert authors call on governments to include eye health in broader health care planning and financing, harness new technology to improve diagnosis and treatment, and expand the eye health workforce, so that everyone can access high-quality eyecare. The report can also be accessed as a PDF here.

The Commission, authored by 73 leading experts from 25 countries, calls for eyecare to be included in mainstream health services and development policies, arguing that it is essential to achieving universal health coverage and the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Building on the foundation laid by WHO and partners in VISION 2020 and the recent WHO World Report on Vision, this Commission synthesises the latest evidence with new epidemiological and economic analyses to demonstrate that—with the right tools, strategies, and sufficient funding—improving eye health has immediate and substantial benefits for economic and social prosperity for individuals and nations.

“It is unacceptable that more than a billion people worldwide are needlessly living with treatable vision impairment”, said Professor Matthew Burton, co-chair of The Lancet Commission and Director of the International Centre for Eye Health at The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, U.K. “Vision impairment leads to detrimental effects for health, well-being, and economic development including reduced education and employment opportunities, social isolation, and shorter life expectancy. As the COVID-19 pandemic brings renewed emphasis on building resilient and responsive health systems, eye health must take its rightful place within the mainstream health agenda and global development.”

Several webinars and sessions to help people better understand the report and the opportunities of the international research leading to it are just being posted this week. People can register to attend the formal launch of The Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness Vision Atlas on Feb. 24 here. Registration to attend is also posted here.