VISION 2020 is the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness in the world, undertaken jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), with an international membership of NGOs, professional associations, eye care institutions and corporations. This program was launched in 1999 and it is expected that it will prevent a thousand million people from going blind over a period of two decades. Mission The mission of the VISION 2020 Global Initiative is to eliminate the main causes of all preventable and treatable blindness by the year 2020, in order to give people all over the world, particularly the needlessly blind, the right to sight.
With the end goal of eliminating avoidable blindness by the year 2020, the initiative really seeks to improve the quality of life of people in the long run by ensuring the best possible vision for them. The main objectives of VISION 2020 are:
• Increasing the awareness of the causes of avoidable blindness and the solutions that could help eliminate the problem.
• Identifying and securing the necessary resources around the world in order to provide an increased level of activity in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programmes.
• Facilitating the planning, development, and implementation of the three elements of the VISION 2020 strategic plan by instituting/strengthening the national programs.
What is avoidable blindness?
According to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), about 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide; out of which 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision (severe or moderate visual impairment). About 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired people live in developing countries. Out of these, 65 per cent of visually impaired and 82 percent of blind people are over 50 years of age, although this age group comprises only 20 per cent of the world population. Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of visual impairment, while cataracts are the leading cause of blindness. It is extremely significant to note that out of all causes, the preventable causes are as high as 80 per cent of the total global visual impairment burden. Avoidable blindness is defined as blindness that could be either treated or prevented by known, cost-effective means. Up to 80 per cent of the world’s blindness is avoidable. Although there are many other causes of vision impairment, VISION 2020 seeks to address the main causes of avoidable blindness, in order to have the greatest possible impact on vision loss worldwide. The target disease areas for VISION 2020 are:
• Refractive error
• Childhood blindness
• Low vision
• Onchocerciasis/river blindness
• Diabetic retinopathy
• Age related macular degeneration
The VISION 2020 program plans to achieve its goals through the establishment of a sustainable, comprehensive eye-care system as an integral part of every national health system. The strategy of VISION 2020 is thus built upon a foundation of community participation, with three essential components or elements:
• Cost-effective disease control interventions by means of specific programs to control and treat the major causes of blindness
• Human resource development (training and motivation of ophthalmologists and other eye care personnel to provide eye care)
• Development of infrastructure facilities, appropriate technology, consumables, and funds etc. to make eye care more available and accessible
VISION 2020, through WHO, IAPB and its member organisations, provides technical support and advocacy to prevention of blindness activities, worldwide. At the national level, a strong partnership between the ministries of health, national and international NGOs, professional organisations, and civil society groups – brought together in a national prevention of blindness or VISION 2020 committee– should facilitate the development and implementation of effective and sustainable national eye care plans.