Today, the 8th of October, World Sight Day is celebrated globally. This year´s theme is ´Hope In Sight´.
World Sight Day has been celebrated on the second Thursday of October since it was originally initiated by Lions Clubs International as part of the SightFirst Campaign in 1988 to raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment. In 2000, World Sight Day became an official event of the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and has ever since been the focal advocacy and public relations occasion for the IAPB and its members and partners.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around a billion people around the world have vision impairment that in the majority of cases can be treated, prevented or cured. Vision impairment or blindness can have major and long-lasting effects on all aspects of life, including daily activities, interacting with the community, education and work opportunities and the ability to access public services. Reduced eyesight can be caused by several factors, including diseases like diabetes and trachoma, trauma to the eyes, or conditions such as refractive error, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma.
This year’s celebration will be quite different from previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, there are a variety of interesting activities on offer to promote eye health awareness and access to quality eye care. Here are just two examples:
- The IAPB, with support from Bayer, is organizing the International Photography Competition where amateur and professional photographers from around the world are invited to share photos highlighting the impact of eye health on people’s lives. In previous years, hundreds of photographers have shared their work which helps to create a great resource for the entire eye health sector as the photos are made available for use under a CreativeCommons licence.
- A number of celebrities, athletes and authors will read bedtime stories to children globally to launch the free digital children’s book “Through the Looking Glasses: Stories About Seeing Clearly.” The goal is to shine a light on the more than 230 million kids worldwide that don’t have access to glasses but desperately need them. The book features 30 children’s stories and illustrations about seeing clearly by authors and artists from 17 countries.
For years, Lions Clubs around the world have organized various projects to focus attention on the prevention of blindness, awareness of the importance of eye health and the need for quality eye care services for all and this is why we have partnered with them to extend our reach of diabetic retinopathy awareness. Many Lions Clubs have set up collection points within their communities for redundant spectacles and other resources for the sight-impaired although this year COVID-19 has made this work more challenging.
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Other activities include taking part in awareness-raising walks, distributing and displaying posters, bookmarks, booklets and other forms of information that raise awareness of preventable blindness – some even plant trees to commemorate the day.
World Sight Day is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of eye health and ways to prevent vision loss. When was the last time you had an eye exam? What about your family, friends and colleagues?
We should all pledge this World Sight Day to take an eye exam—and encourage others to do the same. Let’s also use this fine occasion to encourage governments, corporations, institutions and individuals to actively support universal access to eye health. Blindness can be prevented in so many cases – so let’s make that happen!