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An important milestone on World Sight Day

The WHO Representative to Laos, Dr Juliet Fleischl, has congratulated the Ministry of Health on World Sight Day for reaching an important milestone - the successful elimination of trachoma as a public health problem.
World Sight Day raises awareness of blindness and vision impairment. The theme for this year is “Make vision count”.
Globally, 285 million people are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind. Some 90 percent of blind people live in low-income or developing countries.

Ophthalmologists provide free eye check-ups at the Ophthalmology Centre.

Trachoma is one of the leading infectious causes of blindness in the world. The Ministry of Health is planning an official event to mark the successful elimination of trachoma.
Trachoma infection spreads from person to person, particularly from child to child and from child to mother to child. The disease thrives in crowded living conditions with inadequate water, sanitation and poor hygiene.
Dr Fleischl said, “Four out of five visual impairment cases are avoidable, if diagnosed and treated early. Countries should provide good quality and affordable eye care services for all, and educate people on the importance of eye disease prevention and care. The target is to reduce 25 percent of avoidable visual impairments by 2019.”
Many causes of visual impairment are avoidable. In the past 20 years, the number of people blind from infectious diseases has been greatly reduced.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults. It occurs as a result of long term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina.
Diabetes causes small blood vessels in the retina to become weak and break down or become blocked. Medical interventions can decrease some of the risk to vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition affecting older people, and involves the loss of a person’s central field of vision. It is ranked third as a cause of blindness after cataract and glaucoma. The main risk factor is ageing but may include the use of tobacco, genetic tendencies and the pigmentation of the eyes, high blood pressure, and a poor diet.
Many people who are visually impaired face a lifetime of barriers to daily activities, attaining a good education, social interactions and employment.
On World Sight Day, it is important to advocate vision issues to key decision makers, policy makers, government officials, patients, partners and donors and the community.
The Director of the Ophthalmology Centre, Dr Khamphoua Southisombath, said Laos is still implementing the World Health Organisation Action Plan on the prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment 2014-19.
The Action Plan identifies its purpose as “increasing access to comprehensive eye care services that are integrated into health systems”. Each year, authorities focus on one aspect of the theme to develop a “Call to Action”.
The call to action recognises a vital aspect of a successful and sustainable eye health network – an informed and regular end-user base which accesses eye care services at different points, based on need, age and other such factors. It is necessary to work with multiple audiences.
According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), on World Sight Day, IAPB members work together to raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment as major international public health issues.
They will also influence governments as well as Ministers of Health to participate in and designate funds for national blindness prevention programmes, educate target audiences about blindness prevention, about VISION 2020 and generate support for VISION 2020 programme activities.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update October 14, 2017)

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