WHO launches new initiative to tackle the main cause of vision impairment

The World Health Organization (WHO) is launching a new initiative, SPECS 2030, to assist countries in achieving the global eye care target of a 40% increase in the proportion of people with access to appropriate spectacles.

The launch will be held during a 2-day meeting in Geneva, Switzerland with over 100 participants including Member States representatives, UN agencies, academia and nongovernmental organizations.

“The SPECS 2030 initiative marks a significant milestone in combatting uncorrected refractive error, commonly known as short-sightedness or long-sightedness, which is the leading cause of vision impairment in both children and adults,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director for Noncommunicable Diseases, Rehabilitation and Disability. “Globally, it is estimated that only around one third of people with vision impairment due to refractive error have access to a pair of spectacles that allows them to see well.”

The SPECS 2030 initiative calls for coordinated action across 5 key pillars:

  • improve access to refractive services
  • build capacity of personnel to provide refractive services
  • improve population education
  • reduce the cost of refractive error services
  • strengthen surveillance and research.

The initiative will focus on 4 key strategies of engagement to support countries and stakeholders.

  1. Normative work builds on WHO’s existing technical guidance for eye care and developing additional resources.
  2. Global SPECS Network provides a platform for relevant organizations to promote collective and coordinated advocacy and action, share experiences, and expand their professional network.
  3. Private sector dialogues will be convened with relevant private sector actors, including for example the optical, pharmaceutical and technology industries, private sector service providers and insurance companies.
  4. Engagement of regions and countries, including a range of activities, will accelerate progress and bridge the gap between global eye care commitments and country implementation, such as WHO-led policy dialogues with governments, country-level workshops, or capacity building and awareness raising activities.

“We are committed to strengthen engagement with all key stakeholders and unite towards coordinated action and advocacy,” said Dr Mikkelsen. “To achieve this, the WHO Global SPECS Network has been established and the inaugural 32 member organizations are participating in the meeting.”

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