The World Sight Day (WSD) is held on the 2nd Thursday of October to emphasize the importance of sight and impact of vision impairment. This observance is a joint initiative of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international non-governmental organizations.1
The celebration resonates with Vision 2020 initiative for the control of avoidable blindness by the year 2020. It can promote professional as well as public awareness about sight and vision impairment . This is wise as we know that most cases of visual impairment are preventable or treatable nonetheless there are more than 280 million people, including 19 million children, who live with visual impairment.2 This is much more a priority for the developing countries because they inhabit 90 % of the visually impaired.3 Epidemiological transition has already commenced in the developing world4-7 but they are not ready to take care of the age-related blinding conditions.
Non- governmental and community organizations would probably be the ideal entities to organize and celebrate WSD on a national level. But participation from a wide range of state and humanitarian bodies and even leading figures and celebrities is conceivable and welcomed. This should culminate in community initiatives for wanting resources and fund raising, and should influence policy -makers to develop and implement blindness prevention programs.
The WHO Action Plan 2013 on the prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment has suggested the theme ‘Universal Eye Health’ for WSD 2013. The plan seeks “integration of comprehensive eye care (from promotion to rehabilitation) services into health systems”, and expects to address equity challenge. The theme is so ambitious and encompassing that might continue as a consistent one in the next years, focusing on a different aspect of the theme each year. The call to action in 2013 was ‘Get your Eyes Tested’.1 This call will encourage the public to seek care and challenge the local eye healthcare facilities for eye care and services.
WSD at Farabi Eye Hospital
During the past years, WSD has been held in Iran through a variety of events. Farabi Eye Hospital organized a celebration of the WSD 2013 in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the National Institute for Health Research. The municipality socio-cultural department of the Hospital locality also organized the social aspects of the event.
The scientific program titled ‘Ophthalmic Epidemiology & Eye Health Seminar’ was held for the 1st time in Iran.
The scientific program comprised three symposia: evidence on eye health and diseases in Iran policy making for eye health and low vision and disability. We had 2 keynote lectures on ‘social determinants of eye health’ and ‘ universal access to eye health’. The morning sessions were concluded by articulating the Farabi Statement on the Prevention of Blindness and Eye Health 2013 by the event presidents ( see Appendix, pages 322-323). In the afternoon, 2 workshops on diabetic retinopathy screening and artificial intelligence were held. Participants included ophthalmologists, optometrists, and community medicine, public health, and epidemiology experts, and young scholars.
The social program offered free of charge optometry services for local senior citizens referred by the district Community Houses (i.e. Get Your Eyes Tested!). We also held a painting competition on the theme of sight for children younger than 10, and a best text message competition. The event received massive media coverage.
Farabi Eye Hospital is now more than ever committed to public eye health.
2. Resnikoff S, Pascolini D, Etya’ale D, Kocur I, Pararajasegaram R, Pkharl GP, et al. Global data on visual impairment in the year 2002. Bull World Health Organ 200482(11):844-51.
3. World Health Organization. Visual impairment and blindness. Geneva: World Health Organization 2012. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs282/en/
4. Lopez AD, Mathers CD, Ezzatti M, Jamison DT, Murray CJL. Global and regional burden of disease and risk factors, 2001: systematic analysis of population health data. Lancet 2006367(9524):1747-57.
5. Mackenbach JP. The epidemiologic transition theory. J Epidemiol Community Health 48(4):329-31.
6. Beaglehole R. Cardiovascular disease in developing countries. BMJ 1992305(6863):1170-1.
7. Amuna P , Zotor FB . Epidemiological and nutrition transition in developing countries: impact on human health and development. Proc Nutr Soc 200867(1):82-90.