Monday, 28 March 2011

ICEE - News

Global Action on Eye Care Crisis

The World Congress on Refractive Error (WCRE) attracted eye care professionals, researchers, government representatives and industry from all over the world to address uncorrected refractive error – the leading cause of avoidable blindness and vision impairment in the world today.

Leading advocate, Professor Brien Holden, CEO of ICEE told those assembled, “The cost of not providing eye care services to those in need is well in excess of approximately $US269 billion per annum, just in lost productivity.

“The sad part is, the number of those affected by uncorrected vision problems, and the cost associated with the inability to see clearly to work or participate in education or in the community, will only rise if we don’t act right now to recognise and take action against this crisis,” added Professor Holden.

The Congress heard that a staggering 670 million people are avoidably blind or vision impaired because they don’t have access to simple vision correction (spectacles) that could be provided at a relatively low cost compared to the loss of productivity and quality of life.

A statement endorsed by the global eye care and vision health organisations present at the Congress, to be formally released on World Sight Day, advocated for a renewed commitment to delivery of eye care services to combat the rising numbers of eye conditions such as myopia (short-sightedness) and hyperopia (long-sightedness) and other common eye conditions known as refractive errors.

The Durban Commitment 2010 – Vision Health and Development; Enhancing our Commitment to the Durban Declaration on Refractive Error, was welcomed by the representatives of more than 600 delegates attending the Congress. The industry commitment is set to be delivered to governments and peak health care and development agencies worldwide in an attempt to raise awareness to the global shortfall in care.

The first World Congress on Refractive Error, held in 2007, resulted in the release of the Durban Declaration on Refractive Error and Service Development, which called for a greater emphasis on the delivery of eye care services to those in the most underserved communities.

The Commitment document reaffirmed the intentions of the Durban Declaration but heightened concern for the current inadequate levels of services worldwide, demanding urgent action to scale-up plans for the provision of eye care. According to Professor Kovin Naidoo, Congress Chair, the Durban Commitment 2010 represents a paradigm shift in thinking and strategy as it locates eye care firmly in the broader development agenda and commits civil society and other role players to developing partnerships that address poverty and eye health as a common agenda.

The assembly is committed to ensuring universal access to quality services, and to supporting and strengthening primary health care reforms. It further recognised the importance of reducing social and economic inequities caused by vision loss. It drew particular reference to the plight of children. The Commitment confirmed the intention of the assembly to further integrate eye care programmes with schools and child health programmes.

Those present also noted that the improvement of health and well-being of people is the ultimate aim of social and economic development. It emphasised the need for gender specific strategies for the provision of all health care. The Congress heard that two thirds of those in need of vision correction in the world today are women.

The meeting concluded with a resolution to promote and support accelerated action, calling on all governments, institutions and development organisations as well as people worldwide, to work together to address the issue as a matter of urgency.

The Commitment was signed by representatives of the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (Africa), the International Council of Ophthalmology, World Council of Optometry and the International Centre for Eyecare Education.

Following the Congress, the sixth World Conference on Optometric Education (WCOE), took place in the final two days of the week, drawing together educators from around the world to discuss eye care education.

Speaking at the conference, Caroline Hyde-Price, Executive Director of the World Council of Optometry (WCO), host of the conference, commented on the outcome of the week. “This week has had a real buzz. WCOE delegates had a chance to interact with WCRE delegates and explore broader agendas which has led to some very positive discussions about collaborations, partnerships; the way we work together as professionals and as organisations going forward”, she said.

“Educators are at the forefront in the delivery of standards of eye care and they inspire and influence countless across the world each year. The passion for their work is what will help address the issues of service delivery that was so poignantly discussed this week, “ she added.“The two conferences together were truly a landmark which has galvanised the profession and focused us collectively on provision of quality care worldwide. It’s a stunning outcome”, she said.

The International Optometrist of the Year was announced at the conference. Dr Tom Little, who was recently killed whilst leading a humanitarian health mission in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, was posthumously awarded.

Professor George Woo, President of the World Council of Optometry commenting on the award said, “Dr Little had dedicated his life to providing eye and vision care in a very difficult and challenging environment. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues and the WCO is proud to recognise Dr Little as an outstanding individual and professional.”

Dr Little was working for International Assistance Mission. It is estimated that International Assistance eye care work has benefited an estimated five million Afghans since 1966. Originally from Kinderhook, New York, Dr Little had worked in Afghanistan for more than 30 years.

Ms Hyde-Price thanked sponsors and supporters whom, she said, have already shown a commitment to the cause through their support of the conferences; Transitions Optical, Optometry Giving Sight and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, CIBA VISION, Carl Zeiss Vision, Helen Keller International, Operation Eyesight Universal, Sightsavers International, Light For The World, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Canon, Johnson & Johnson Vistakon, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, African Council of Optometry, South African Optometry Association and Middle East Africa Council of Ophthalmology and media partners Mail & Guardian, Eyesite and Eyecare Africa Journal. Essilor was also a proud supporter of the World Conference on Optometric Education.