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WHA Endorse Blindness Action Plan

World health authorities have taken a giant step in eye care and have signalled their determination to bring decent eye health services to as much of the world’s population as possible.

In April, the World Health Assembly (WHA) endorsed the Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment, an enormous win for the international eye health and vision care sector.

The Plan aims to expand efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO), Member States and international partners of VISION 2020 to prevent blindness and vision impairment by developing comprehensive eye health programs at national and sub-national levels.

It also sets out current experiences, draws on achievements and addresses gaps in activities implemented over the past decades.

The WHO drafted the Action Plan in consultation with Member States and international partners. This plan will complement the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Non Communicable Diseases endorsed by the 61st WHA in May 2008.

Dr. Ivo Kocur, WHO Team Leader for the Prevention of Blindness and Deafness Program said that the adoption of the Action Plan by the WHA was a major accomplishment and would provide additional unprecedented support to Vision 2020 and WHO joint efforts to improve eye health internationally.

Mr. Christian Garms, President of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness added: “This endorsement marks a major milestone in the history of prevention of blindness and again proves the value of our strong relationship and excellent collaboration with the WHO.”

The Australian delegation to the WHA was one of 29 Member States to speak in favour of the Plan. Australia’s delegation was led by Senator Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Senator McLucas is a committed supporter of Vision 2020 Australia and the global push toward the elimination of avoidable blindness.

“On behalf of Vision 2020 Australia and our member organisations I would like to thank the Australian delegation for their support and commitment to avoidable blindness – this endorsement edges us closer to our goal of eliminating avoidable blindness by the year 2020,” said Jennifer Gersbeck, Chief Executive Officer, Vision 2020 Australia.

“The Action Plan aims to strengthen national eye health policies, increase research to prevent blindness, improve coordination between partners and stakeholders and monitor progress in the elimination of avoidable blindness,” she said.

Vision 2020 Australia was established in 2000 and is part of ‘Vision 2020: The Right To Sight’, a global initiative of the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Vision 2020 Australia is a national body working in partnership with over 50 member organisations to prevent avoidable blindness and improve vision care.

Globally, 161 million people are blind or vision impaired due to eye diseases such as cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, trachoma and macular degeneration, with an additional 153 million people blind or vision impaired due to uncorrected refractive error. Up to 80 per cent of the world’s blindness is treatable or preventable.