To mark World Optometry Day, 23 March 2022, our new article considers the importance of good eye health across the course of a person’s life.
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According to the World Report on Vision published by the World Health Organisation in 2019, more than 2.2 billion people worldwide have a visual impairment or vision loss, and this number is poised to grow because the majority of eye diseases are most prevalent in older adults. In fact, more than 73% of people with vision loss are older adults. However, if detected early, most eye diseases can be treated or their progression can be slowed significantly.
The importance of eye health is a fundamental precondition to quality of life that needs to be acknowledged in all relevant policies. Without the ability to see, older adults may struggle to engage socially and stay in paid and unpaid employment. Vision loss impacts a person’s functional ability and they are more likely to suffer depression, exclusion and die earlier.
This is why, together with the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA), the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and the International Federation on Ageing (IFA), ECOO has published an Advocacy Brief on the WHO Platform for the Decade of Healthy Ageing.
The topic of ageing and vision has achieved an important political momentum, not least thanks to the UN resolution 73/310 Vision for Everyone: accelerating action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the WHO World Report on Vision, and the World Health Assembly resolution 73.4 Integrated People-centred Eye Care, including preventable vision impairment and blindness.
These policy windows provide an important opportunity to engage with policy makers. They emphasise the need to consistently incorporate vision and eye health across all ages into relevant policy initiatives and commit to implementation. In line with this Call for Action, ECOO is actively engaging with the European Commission on the upcoming European Care Strategy to highlight the importance of vision.
But more still needs to be done to improve understanding about the importance of vision and about eye health across a person’s life course. This requires education and awareness-raising, not only among older adults, but also with carers and with other health professionals. Ultimately, raising awareness of eye health and the promotion of regular eye checks must be driven by public policy.
Primary eye care professionals, such as optometrists, play an important role here. An eye examination does not just check vision, it is also a healthcare check. The back of the eye is the only part of the body where blood vessels can be assessed through visual inspection and without an invasive procedure. All too often, false assumptions are made about ageing: vision loss is accepted as normal when in fact it should not be. We all have our part to play in ensuring people have longer, healthier, active lives.