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Eye Health and the Sustainable Development Goals

IAPB’s advocacy recognises eye health as both a health and development issue.

We actively promote the inclusion of eye health within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and support the development of partnerships with sectors beyond health, such as education, gender and economic development.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to build a healthier world for the entire population and the environment by 2030. The 17 SDGs and 169 targets are integrated which mean they recognise that action in one area will affect outcomes in the others.

Vision makes an important contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and cuts across many of the Sustainable Development Goals; from poverty reduction to economic growth and employment, to education, gender and reducing inequalities.

It is therefore critical that countries adopt a whole-of-government approach to vision and include eye health in their implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at the national level.

IAPB and the UN Friends of Vision are currently championing the first United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Vision. The resolution seeks to explicitly recognise the important contribution eye health can make to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals; and aims to motivate action by countries, the private sector, the UN and its institutions. Read further here.

Select the areas below to learn more about how eye health impacts the Sustainable Development Goals.

There is a strong link between poverty and eye health, with poverty both a cause and a consequence of poor eye health.

A staggering 90% of all vision loss is in low- and middle-income countries, with the poor and extreme poor among the furthest left behind.

Access to eye care services helps reduce poverty and hunger and increases economic opportunities and employment, including:

  • Increased workplace productivity; the provision of glasses to tea workers in India improved productivity by 22%
  • Increased household per capita expenditure;the provision of cataract surgeries in the Philippines increased household per capita expenditure increased by 88%
  • Increased household income; following the provision of cataract surgeries in marginalised communities in rural India, the proportion of households with a monthly income <1000 Rupees decreased from 51% to 21%
  • Improved employment prospects; the provision of rehabilitation services for people with vision impairment increased the odds of obtaining paid employment in the USA by 10%
  • Increased national economic productivity; the provision of cataract surgeries in the USA resulted in an $25.4 billion increase in national productivity

The Lancet Global Health Commission estimates an economic productivity loss of $411 BILLION purchasing power parity due to unaddressed poor vision.

Eye health is key to ensuring good health, mental health and well-being.

Poor eye health increases the risk of premature mortality up to 2.6 times.

Vision impairment causes or exacerbates other conditions, either directly, as with injuries, or indirectly, e.g. through reduced access to healthcare, limitations in physical activity or increased social isolation.

In addition, other health conditions can also lead to vision impairment, such as diabetes and diabetic retinopathy; and cancer and ocular metastases.

Eye health has a positive impact on school enrolment, educational attainment and learning; and is crucial to the achievement of inclusive education systems.

91 million children do not have access to the eye care services they need.

Glasses can reduce the odds of failing a class by 44%

Children with vision loss are 2-5 times less likely to be in formal education in low- and middle- income countries.

The World Bank in its 2019 report: ‘Looking ahead: visual impairment and school eye health programmes’, concluded that the impacts of visual impairment on educational outcomes were substantial. It recommended prioritising the implementation of school eye health programs to ensure inclusive education systems.  Read further here.

55% of people with vision loss are women and girls.

Women are:

  • 8% more likely to be blind
  • 15% more likely to have moderate to severe vision impairment.
  • 12% more likely to have mild vision impairment.
  • 11% more likely to have near vision impairment

Women experience additional barriers and poorer access to eye care services and bear a greater burden of vision impairments due to their disproportionate role as primary caretaker of the household.

Poor eye health is driven by inequality. 90% of all vision loss is in low- and middle-income countries.

In general, those without access eye care services include people living in rural areas, those with low incomes, women, older people, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, refugees and internally displaced persons and migrants.

Older people are particularly at risk, with 73% of people with vision loss over the age of 50vii. Cataract, presbyopia, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma are all associated with ageing.

Suzanna, 34 years of age was pleased after receiving surgery for bilateral cataract

Eye health is critical to reducing road traffic deaths and injuries and achieving SDG Target 11.2 which aims to ‘provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all’.

Cataract has been found to be associated with approximately 2.5-fold increased odds of motor vehicle crashes.


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Photo Credits

Banner image: Peter Crosby