Sight test pledges top three million
Over three million people pledged to get a sight test for World Sight Day (October 14) as the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) highlighted a global vision crisis.
The charity launched its #LoveYourEyes campaign in recognition of how worldwide lockdowns lead to increased screen time, less time spent outdoors and missed eye examinations.
The IAPB encouraged people to engage with their eye health on World Sight Day by booking a sight test. It also raised awareness of the 1.1 billion people who live with sight loss that was preventable but was not avoided because they did not have access to eye care services.
It cited Specsavers’ State of the UK’s Eye Health 2021 report, which estimated 2,986 people in the UK lost vision due to delays in identifying and treating eye disease. Additionally, 4.3 million fewer people received sight tests in 2020 when compared to 2019, which could cost the economy £2.5bn in sight loss and blindness.
Peter Holland, CEO of IAPB, said: ‘The success of this year’s World Sight Day and our #LoveYourEyes campaign has been unparalleled and I’ve been delighted and proud of what we have done together.
‘Every test pledged, every screening held and every social media message sent has meant we were able to reach more people than ever before with over three million pledging to love their eyes. But the scale of the challenge we face is immense. The pandemic struck a massive blow to global eye health, and we must act to save millions from unnecessary blindness.’
As well as the pandemic, the IAPB noted myopia’s increased prevalence and warned half the world’s population would be shortsighted by 2050, which could mean a fifth of those people were at significant risk of blindness if that
Andrew McClean finds out about the activity that took place on this year’s World Sight Day
Eye care in Indonesia
“Every test pledge, every screening held, and every social media message sent has meant we are able to reach more people than every before.”
It added that a study in China found the number of children diagnosed with myopia doubled in 2020, when compared to 2019.
The research, which was published in JAMA Ophthalmology, monitored 2,114 Chinese school children and examined if environmental changes during Covid-19 were associated with increased development of myopia.
Data suggested development of myopia increased during the pandemic but the long term impact of environmental changes needed further investigation.
EYE HEALTH ENGAGEMENT World Sight Day and #LoveYourEyes was marked with eye tests carried out at iconic landmarks, such as Mount Everest, Tower Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge.
The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), a video game industry body whose members include Microsoft and Nintendo, also supported the annual event. Activity in the gaming industry included Microsoft’s Xbox, which produced content for blind and low vision gamers.
Andy Robertson, editor of askaboutgames.com at UKIE, said: ‘Games are a great source of fun and entertainment, but it’s always important to strike a sensible balance when playing. Taking regular breaks has long been recommended as best practice for players of all ages and this campaign is an important reminder of the benefits
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of maintaining that healthy approach.’
The World Health Organization (WHO) also supported World Sight Day by providing tips to patients, such as booking a sight test, following the 20-20-20 rule and encouraging children to take a screen break and play outside.
Alarcos Cieza, unit head for vision, disability and rehabilitation at WHO, said: ‘The last year has been incredibly tough on people, and it has been tough on their eyes too. We have found ourselves spending more time looking at screens, spending less time outside and we have also had to miss sight check-ups. However, there are a few easy things we can do to show our eyes and our loved ones’ eyes, especially our children’s, some extra care.’
Alan Tinger, director at the Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians, said the industry should use World Sight Day to celebrate primary eye care in the UK and all the benefits this delivers for patients, the NHS and wider society. However, he noted impending challenges for the profession.
‘Our hospital eye care service cannot meet growing needs. This lack of capacity means people with glaucoma, macular degeneration and other eye conditions are at an increased risk of preventable sight loss. Primary care stands ready to help hospital sector partners. All that is needed is a commitment from the NHS to commission to new pathways of care to meet the needs of our ageing population,’ Tinger said.
The European Council of Optometry and Optics said a comprehensive eye examination carried out by a qualified eye care professional was the best way for people to preserve their eyesight.
It noted how an eye examination was not just a vision check, but a healthcare check because signs of issues such as diabetes and hypertension could be detected. •