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World Sight Day

Held every year on the second Thursday in October, World Sight Day is an international day dedicated to raising awareness about avoidable blindness and vision impairment. This year -  2016 -  it falls on Thursday 6 October.

An initiative of Vision 2020: The Right to Sight (a joint undertaking of the World Health Organization and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness) World Sight Day highlights the importance of good vision for all people and the limiting affects that uncorrected vision impairment can have on lives..

Want to be involved?

If you want to help wage the war against avoidable blindness and vision impairment – ANYONE can get involved. You can play an active role, whether you’re a professional, part of the eye care industry or an interested member of the public. 

On World Sight Day in 2006, the global community first learnt that uncorrected refractive error was the leading cause of vision impairment and the second leading cause of avoidable blindness. When left untreated, refractive error (including the conditions myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism and presbyopia) can have a major impact on the health of an individual, reducing educational and employment opportunities that often lead to poverty.

There are 625 million people are blind or vision impaired because they don’t have access to an eye examination and a pair of correctly prescribed glasses - the Institute believes providing eye care for such an immense number of people requires an urgent and massive response.We acknowledge that the road to providing the necessary eye care to reduce the global number affected by avoidable blindness or vision impairment is a long one. And it starts with awareness and action. Take action and help us spread awareness. Get your eyes tested and make a commitment to value your vision. Together we can make a difference.

Up to one billion people at risk of blindness by 2050

In addition to the 625 million people with uncorrected vision impairment, up to 1 billion people could be at risk of blindness by the middle of the century if an emerging short-sightedness (myopia) epidemic is ignored.

Brien Holden Vision Institute estimates that half the world’s population (nearly 5 billion) will be myopic by 2050, with up to one-fifth of them (1 billion) in the high myopia category, and at a significantly increased risk of blindness, if behavioural interventions and optical treatments are not developed and implemented.(1) Currently, it’s estimated that over 2 billion people in the world suffer from myopia.

 

Myopia has become particularly prevalent in East Asia, where in urban areas of Singapore, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea, the prevalence is 80-90% among school leavers.(2) However, the problem is not limited to Asian countries alone, with data from western countries like the United States showing that the rate has increased markedly in adults in the last 30 years, from 25% in the early 1970s to 42% in 2004.(3)

“The major concern is with the vast number of people who are likely to progress to high levels of myopia, which brings with it a significantly increased risk of potentially blinding conditions and vision impairment,” said Professor Kovin Naidoo, Acting CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute. “Myopia is not curable or reversible, but there are promising interventions using optical and behavioural approaches that can help slow the progression and prevent people becoming highly myopic.”

Reducing the progression of myopia in individuals by 50%, will prevent almost 90% of myopes reaching high levels of myopia.

Brien Holden Vision Institute is calling on the world – from governments and health agencies, to civil society, parents and schools – to protect the eye health of every child and adult and meet this major public health challenge of our time.

 

What you can do

Parents should encourage their children to spend time outdoors for at least two hours each day. They should also ensure children don’t spend too much time on electronic devices, such as tablets, mobile phones, electronic games, television and other activities which requires them to focus close up for long periods.

Teachers and parents should ensure that children are screened for vision problems at regular intervals and can also be vigilant in detecting and acting on vision problems among children.

Specialised contact lenses and spectacles, which can be prescribed by eye care practitioners, have shown very promising results in controlling the progression of myopia.

The future

Advanced and affordable technology can reduce the eye care challenge. This solution starts with you – share the message and get your eyes tested...

There is much to be done. Our current efforts are making an impact but the scale in which we can operate is not sufficient to build enough established eye care systems to reach our goal or eliminating avoidable blindness and vision impairment by the year 2020. There is an urgent need to raise awareness amongst governments and the general community to generate the necessary support and funding to implement this grand scale solution effectively across the world.

For more information about World Sight Day click here.

References

  1. Holden B, Presentation at Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, 3-7 May 2015, Denver, U.S.
  2. Nature, The Myopia Boom, 18 March 2015.
  3. Vitale, S., Sperduto, R. D. & Ferris, F. L. 2009.Increased prevalence of myopia in the United States between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004, Archives of Ophthalmology, 127, 1632-9.

Location

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    Rupert Myers Building
    Gate 14 Barker Street,
    University of New South Wales
    Sydney NSW 2052
  • +61 2 9385 7516

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    Durban 4001
    South Africa
  • +27 31 202 3811

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