World Sight Day
World Sight Day is a global event that focuses on bringing attention on blindness and vision impairment. It is observed on the second Thursday of October each year.
World Sight Day is an important advocacy and communications opportunity for the eye health community. It is a great time to engage with a wider audience – a patient’s family, those who seldom get an eye exam, diabetics – and showcase why eye health needs everybody’s attention.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which is the UN’s directing and coordinating authority for health, and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) are actively involved in coordinating events and activities for World Sight Day. Associations such as Lions Clubs International have also been actively involved in promoting the day on an annual basis for many years.
Many communities, associations, and non-government organizations work together with WHO and IAPB to promote the day for the following purposes:
- To raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment as major international public health issues.
- To influence governments, particularly health ministers, to participate in and designate funds for national blindness prevention programs.
- To educate target audiences about blindness prevention, about VISION 2020 and its activities, and to generate support for VISION 2020 program activities.
Some people plant trees to commemorate World Sight Day and while others submit a photo for an international photo montage that focuses on the theme of blindness. Other activities include taking part in awareness-raising walks or distributing and displaying posters, bookmarks, booklets and other forms of information the raise awareness about preventable blindness.
The world’s population is ageing and people are living longer but blindness from chronic conditions is also rising, according to WHO. About 80 percent of the world’s 45 million blind people are aged over 50 years. About 90 percent of blind people live in low-income countries, where older people, especially older women, face barriers to getting the necessary eye health care. Yet, many age-related conditions leading to blindness – such as cataract, refractive error and glaucoma – can be easily and cheaply treated or cured. Timely intervention can often delay or reduce their effects on vision.
Lions Clubs International partnered with blindness prevention organizations worldwide to commemorate the first World Sight Day on October 8, 1998. This event was later integrated into VISION 2020, a global initiative that the IAPB coordinates. This initiative is a joint program between WHO and the IAPB. It involves non-government organizations, and professional associations, as well as eye care institutions and corporations.
International Key Messages
- Approximately 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness
- Of these, 39 million people are blind and 246 million have moderate or severe visual impairment
- 90% of blind people live in low-income countries
- Yet 80% of visual impairment is avoidable – i.e. readily treatable and/or preventable
- Restorations of sight, and blindness prevention strategies are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care
- The number of people blind from infectious causes has greatly reduced in the past 20 years
- An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired
- About 65 % of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and older, while this age group comprises only 20% of the world’s population
- Increasing elderly populations in many countries mean that more people will be at risk of age-related visual impairment.