Have you ever heard of World Sight Day? This year, World Sight Day falls on Thursday, October 12th. This day of recognition is designed to bring the focus on visual impairment and get the numbers out about preventable blindness. According to the World Sight Day website, “80% of the world’s blind are avoidably so.”
History of World Sight Day
In 2000, The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) launched “World Sight Day,” a part of their Sight First campaign, with VISION 2020. VISION 2020: The Right to Sight is a Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness by the year 2020. It was formally launched from W.H.O. Headquarters in 1999.
In 2002, “The State of World Blindness” began being presented on World Sight Day. This report looks at issues surrounding blindness, the cost of global blindness, and highlights the achievements and future goals of VISION 2020.
On World Sight Day, 2003, Pope John Paul II officially recognized VISION 2020: The Right to Sight and blessed the fight against blindness around the world. Since then, participation in World Sight Day has grown. Every year hundreds of activities are planned. The IAPB provides downloadable materials and information packets that can be shared with the media or on your own social media to help pass along the key messages of the day.
World Sight Day 2017
Every year, World Sight Day has a slightly different objective. This year the call to action is “Make Vision Count,” and the theme is Universal Eye Health. Since World Sight Day is an international day of awareness, Universal Eye Health was chosen as a focus because it is in keeping with the WHO’s Action Plan 2014-2019.
This theme will be used for the next several years, but each year there will be a new call to action. For “Make Vision Count,” people were encouraged to take part in a photo contest to show the impact of eye health in people’s lives. They were also encouraged to share their photos on social media. Another activity that was promoted for World Sight Day 2017 was the blindfolding of statues. Celebrities and government officials were also asked to blindfold themselves to experience blindness, temporarily.
The goals of World Sight Day 2017 are to encourage people to:
- Invest in eye health by increasing budget allocations to address need.
- Address the human resources crisis in eye health by invest in training, innovation, and research
- Integrate eye health at every level of the health system
- Withdraw user fees to the poorest.
According to the World Sight Day website, “In 2010, just over 28% of the world’s population were affected by Myopia (short-sightedness). This is predicted to rise to 34% by 2020 and nearly 50% by 2050. In 2014, approximately 422 million people – or 8.5% of adults worldwide – were living with diabetes, compared to 108 million in 1980. Low- and middle-income countries account for approximately 75% of the global diabetes burden. Approximately one in three people living with diabetes have some degree of Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) and one in 10 will develop a vision-threatening form of the disease.”
Children’s vision should be especially protected since their eyes are still developing. Children should be taken to regular eye doctor appointments, whether or not they seem to be having trouble seeing. Children with visual impairments are not always aware that what they are seeing is abnormal and may not be able to communicate visual problems to adults accurately.
In America, many people have access to eye care, but they sometimes neglect taking important steps in protecting their vision. Preventing blindness or visual impairment can sometimes be as simple as using protective eyewear when you are outside, using glare-reducing, blue-light blocking filters on your screens, or using proper lighting to prevent eye strain. Also, eating well and not smoking will help keep your eyes healthy.
This year, consider participating in World Sight Day. If you’ve missed the 2017 events, mark your calendar for 2018. The issue of preventable blindness is an important one. You can be part of a great initiative to help raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment as major international public health issues.