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08 October 2020

Celebrating World Sight Day Hope in Sight

Today marks World Sight Day 2020 Hope in Sight. The annual event, led by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), focused on promoting universal access to personalised eye care and preventing avoidable sight loss.

The IAPB has raised awareness about the World Health Assembly's resolution for eye health which gained global political support to make eye care part of universal health coverage and 'integrated people-centred eye care'.

David Hewlett, FODO Director and President of the European Coalition for Vision (ECV), observed World Sight Day by reminding policymakers across Europe that this was "a totemic year for eye health and visual impairment". He said it marked "20 years since the VISION 2020 global initiative was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate the main causes of preventable and treatable blindness by the year 2020".

David added that the last two decades had seen much progress, yet rates of vision impairment were still climbing owing to the ageing population and serious eye health inequalities still existing within countries, which had not been tackled.

Formally launching the ECV initiative ‘Equal-eyes 2030' to tackle inequalities, he referenced the latest prevalence data and the EUROVISION report (see below). He explained that governments and policy-makers often assumed that eye health needs were being met, when in reality many people were falling through gaps adding to personal, social and national health costs. These gaps included information about personal risks of eye disease to enable people to take action and eye health not being fully part of national health care regimes.

Focusing on action and looking ahead he said: "The ECV is calling for a major effort to reduce and close these inequality gaps in all European countries, as well as at European level, over the next 10 years by 2030."

Landmark study published 

The ECV also highlighted the publication of the EUROVISION project, which surveyed more than 300,000 people across Europe, including the UK and Ireland. It was published in the Acta Ophthalmologica and is the most extensive analysis of self-reported vision impairment in Europe. 

The study found that 3% of men over 50 years report severe difficulty with vision and 4% of women, rising to 12% and 17% in those aged 85 and older, respectively.

It also discovered that being visually impaired was significantly associated with depression and social isolation and more common among those with lower income and less education. In the UK, 2% of survey respondents aged over 60 reported a lot of difficulty despite having an optical correction.

The ECV will present the data at a first-ever eye health symposium to European and global public health experts at the virtual 16th World Congress on Public Health on 16 October 2020.

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