The link between eye health and UHC
The centrality of eye health to UHC is widely acknowledged. Both the World Report on Vision and the Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health emphasise the need for countries to ensure eye health is represented in their UHC planning, resourcing and funding. While progress has been made, eye health services need to be an integral part of UHC to address the challenges arising from changing population demographics, inequities in access and the projected increase in the need for eye health services.
The political declaration from the United Nations (UN) high-level meeting on UHC in 2023 acknowledged the burden of unaddressed and avoidable blindness and vision impairment. Member states committed to “strengthen efforts to address the specific physical and mental health needs of all people as part of universal health coverage […] including for eye health conditions”.
The UN General Assembly Resolution Vision for Everyone also acknowledged eye care’s role in achieving the SDGs. The report explicitly linked eye health to educational attainment, economic empowerment and gender equity. Eye health is also crucial to ensuring good health, mental health and wellbeing and building strong and resilient health care systems.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least a billion people worldwide have impaired vision that could be prevented or treated. For countries to achieve the SDGs, including SDG3, eye health needs to be considered and included in UHC. The provision of eye health services within UHC planning, processes and financing can also add $410 billion to the global economy.
Fiona Lawless is Sightsavers’ health policy adviser.