Commonwealth health ministers reaffirm eye health commitments

An annual meeting of Commonwealth health ministers focused on the link between eye health and non-communicable diseases

Commonwealth health ministers gather at the annual meeting. They wear formal attire and hold a large orange sign reading ‘Its time to accelerate global action on eye health

Commonwealth health ministers reaffirmed a commitment to eye health and scaling up actions to address eye health challenges during their annual meeting on 24–25 May.

Ministers recognised the importance of eye health as a cornerstone of universal health coverage and health security.

The meeting celebrated progress made in eliminating trachoma and providing eye care services to children throughout the Commonwealth.

The commitment was emphasised during a meeting organised by the Vision for the Commonwealth Coalition, attended by representatives from Commonwealth nations and the World Health Organization (WHO).

James Chen, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) global ambassador, and a founding member of the Vision for the Commonwealth Coalition, said: “We are grateful to Commonwealth health ministers for their ongoing commitment to eye health.”

“Ministers have recognised the critical role eye health plays in overall health, including in tackling non-communicable diseases, as well as wider wellbeing, education, and economic productivity,” Chen added.

The meeting focused on the link between eye health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes.

Hon. Valasi Luapitofanua To’ogamaga Tafito Selesele, minister of health of Samoa, opened the meeting by sharing Samoa’s approach to integrating eye health into national NCD strategies.

Dr Saia Piukala, Western Pacific regional director of WHO, highlighted the interconnection of NCDs and vision health, commenting: “Vision health is not a luxury, it’s essential for development.”

Brandon Ah Tong, director of policy and advocacy at the Fred Hollows Foundation, and Carole Poloso, chief ophthalmologist of the Soloman Islands and PacEYES executive secretary, shared reflections on the importance of affordable, available, and accessible eye health.

Ministers affirmed their commitment to accelerating a multi-sector approach to addressing eye health challenges, including promoting innovative solutions and ensuring accessible and equitable eye care for all citizens in the Commonwealth.

The Vision for the Commonwealth Coalition collected signatures at the meeting calling for accelerated global action on eye health, with notable signatories including Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, and Baroness Scotland, the Commonwealth secretary-general, along with sixteen country representatives.

The coalition is made up of IAPB, Sightsavers, Fred Hollows Foundation, Peek Vision, and the International Coalition for Trachoma Control.