World Sight Day 2023: eye health and work

Ahead of the awareness day on 12 October, OT  heard from Peter Holland about this year’s campaign

Peter Holland, chief executive of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), describes World Sight Day as “the single biggest moment and opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of eye health globally.”

Speaking to OT ahead of the international awareness day, which will take place on 12 October, Holland shared details of this year’s theme, goals for the campaign, and how optometrists can get involved.

“What we’re trying to do is reach as many people as possible with messages about how important eye health is, how important it is to look after your eyes, to be aware about the kinds of conditions you might have, and where to get eye care,” Holland explained.

In 2022, the World Sight Day campaign reached more than 500 million people across social media, and this year the IAPB hopes to reach even more.

The 2023 campaign is focused on Love Your Eyes at Work.

Holland said: “It’s an opportunity to engage both employers and employees about how important looking after your eyes in the workplace is. Both in terms of employee wellbeing, health and safety, but also it has real productivity benefits as well.”

Investing in eye health: four recommendations

A report published earlier this year by Deloitte and sponsored by IAPB partner, Roche, explored Investment in Eye Health to Prevent Sight Loss.

Holland explained: “This looked at the cost-benefit of investing in eye health and why this is a good investment, because the impacts it has are not just on people’s ability to see, but more broadly around economic productivity and people’s ability to participate and contribute to society.”

The report identified four areas of recommendation: information, leadership, workforce, and services.

The first area of focus was a lack of data around eye health and eye care, particularly at a national level.

Holland said: “If you’re not collecting data, you can’t tell whether your services are improving or not.”

This is particularly important, the IAPB team suggests, in light of the two global targets on eye health set by the World Health Assembly in 2021 to increase effective coverage of refractive error and cataract surgery by 2030.

The second area focuses on leadership and the need for national plans and policies around eye health and care.

“We see that is quite patchy around the world,” Holland said.

The report highlighted Nepal as an example of a country that has introduced a national plan of eye health.

Holland told OT: “Increasingly, we would be keen to make sure that eye health is in fact included in national health plans, so it’s not just out on its own, but it is properly integrated into overall health policy and planning so that you then get access to the resources you need.”

Increasingly, we would be keen to make sure that eye health is in fact included in national health plans

The need to invest in and develop the eye care workforce is also a key recommendation.

“Crucially, you need to develop the skills you need at every level, particularly in primary care in many countries,” Holland said, pointing out the need to train eye care professionals as well as broader healthcare workers to identify problems in eye health.

The final recommendation calls for greater investment in preventative interventions to identify conditions earlier.

Holland reflected on diabetic retinopathy, and how early identification can help to prevent significant sight loss.

“It’s both about having the services available, but also raising awareness, which is why days like World Sight Day are so important in terms of raising awareness and making people aware of how important their eye health and vision is,” he shared.

“We would encourage all optometrists and as many as possible to participate in World Sight Day,” Holland concluded.

More details on World Sight Day including resources to join the 2023 campaign can be found on the IAPB website.