Dr. Abhishek Mandal, PhD
Senior Business Adviser, Vision Science Academy, London, U.K.
Sustainable development has significant importance in the present era. We are focused on sustainably planning everything. Eye care is also associated with the concept of sustainability. Worldwide there are 43 million blind people as of the 2021 census. There are multiple causes and triggering factors behind this blindness issue. Undermined progress on sustainable development goals (SDGs) is one of them. The SDGs play a vital role in better eye health and vice versa. Negative progress of numerous SGDs like poverty, hunger, poor economic growth, and poor education impacts eyes health worst. Therefore, a sound policy and combined effort are necessary to ensure eye health and sustainable development.
What is the relationship between sustainability and eye health?
Good eye health can improve the progress of most SDGs and vice versa. Eye health depends on eye care services that include all kinds of remediations that enhance eye health, circumscribing the spectrum of promotion, prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. There is a two-way association between eye health and the SDGs. This article is centralised on the SDGs most considerable for eye health, the impact of improved eye health on SDGs progress, and the role of the Vision Science Academy (VSA) in eye care and sustainability.
What is the relationship between poverty, hunger, economic growth (SDG 1, 2, 8), and eye health?
There exists a bidirectional relationship between vision impairment and poverty. Data suggests that the preponderance of eye ailments is higher in developing regions, with 90% found in poverty-stricken areas. Below is a graph depicting the percentage of visually impaired people in different regions. It is evident from the graph that most percentage is present in developing regions.
Poverty leads to substandard health care services, wrong diagnosis, and improper treatment. Not only this, but the overall health could worsen because of poverty which, in turn, affects the eyes. An example is a xerophthalmia, a condition of vitamin A insufficiency caused by malnutrition.
Visual problems lead to reduced economic growth and unemployment. According to the World Health Survey, visually impaired individuals are less likely to be employed at 49 and have lower salaries (Jaggernath et al., 2014).
What is the relationship between climate change and eye health (SDG 13)?
Climatic changes could augment the rate of trachoma, vitamin A deficiency, cataracts, eye allergies, glaucoma, macular deterioration, and eye injuries. Also, extreme weather conditions can disrupt eye health services and supply chains.
Trachoma is the leading cause of infectious blindness. High temperatures, dry and dusty weather, and water scarcity contribute to trachoma (Ramesh et al., 2013). Cataracts, another leading eye disease, are provoked by dehydration. In this regard, different studies were conducted in Minassian and Raipur, which identified 40% and 38% cases of dehydration-induced cataracts. Furthermore, a minimum of 20% of cataract cases are assumed as a direct consequence of slowly increasing exposures to ultraviolet (UV) rays which may lead to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the ocular lens (Zhang et al., 2012). According to a study conducted in Spain, it is estimated that the burden on eye health has increased by 36.5% due to climate change(Echevarría-Lucas et al., 2021).
Several studies have found a novel linkage between higher exposure to ambient PM2.5 and raised rate of unprompted glaucoma. The inner retinal changes of those exposed to PM2.5 were more than others. According to different studies 1 mmHg increase in Intraocular pressure raises the risk of glaucoma by 10% (Chua et al., 2019).
|Trachoma||Hot, dry, dusty climate|
|Cataracts||Dehydration, UV rays|
What is the relationship between a healthy, well-being life (SDG 3) and eye health?
Eye health and overall health and fitness are highly interlinked. A critical review by Lancet Health Commission on Global Eye Health analyzes the connectedness between eye health and other fitness and wellness, along with the relationship between visual impairment and mortality, visual impairment and collapse, visual impairment and life quality, and visual impairment and mental disorders, cardiovascular problems, respiratory illness, and cancer. Moreover, It is crystal clear that the body and its systems are interconnected, so any issue in one part will affect others.
What is the relationship between quality education (SDG 4) and eye health?
Good eyesight has a strong linkage with improved academic achievements. Research conducted in 30 low and middle-income regions involving about 1 million children concluded that visually impaired children were probably 2 to 5 times less incorporated into formal schooling. In economically stable countries, attendance is compulsory in school, but academic progress tends to be more flawed in visually impaired children than in those without it. Sounder visual health leads to better academic progress in girls and boys, consequently ensuring gender equality and indirectly influencing SDG 5(Burton et al., 2021).
What is the relationship between gender (SDG 5) and eye health?
Gender strongly affects visual impairment, with women being more prone to it than men. The reason could be the onset of puberty in girls at an earlier age compared to boys. Another reason for high eye ailments in women may be nutritional deficiencies(Mohandas et al., 2020). Several studies support the gender imparity of eye ailments. John et al. reported 2.75% visually impaired women(John et al., 2017), while men were 1.97%, and Saha et al. reported 17.3% of the women and 10.9% of men had visual impairment(Saha et al., 2017).
What are the relationship between peace, partnership (SDGs 16 and 17), and eye health?
Peace is the element that can bring harmony, humanity, and unity among the people. When there is peace in the world, the sapiens can look toward the problems that need heed and generate a cumulative response. Globally, partnership for eye care has led to remarkable outcomes. The International Trachoma Initiative and the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control paved the way toward substantial drops in the worldwide burden of significant eye ailments whose stretch across borders seemed uncontrollable and unstoppable. Similarly, public and organizational partnerships have delivered progress worthwhile. An example is Timor-Leste public-private partnership for establishing a national-level spectacle program. In 1987, Merck & Co donated a gargantuan amount for the onchocerciasis control program, which arguably prompted further public-private alliances in coming years.
What is VSA?
The Vision Science Academy (VSA) is a contemporary organisation. The main aim of VSA is to provide top-notch scientific education to those who have opted for visual sciences (optometry or ophthalmology) as their career. VSA is an online training and mentorship assistance for eye health experts. Their goal is to augment the capability of eye health experts and systems to minister and control blindness and optical cognitive impairment.
What has VSA done regarding sustainable development and eye health?
The VSA is an educational institute or academy which serves the optical expert with top-notch knowledge of optometry and ophthalmology through publications, blogs, and webinars. Besides this mainstream goal, the organisation has the intention to move toward sustainability through eye care and vice versa. The main foci are SDG 3 (good health and well-being) and SDG 4 (Quality education). SDG 3 has a direct linkage with eye health, it would be better to say that eye health is a subset of SDG 3 because body functions are all interdependent, so if one gets sabotaged, the others also get undermined. SDG 4, providing quality education to all, has a strong association with eye health, and a bidirectional relationship exists between them. For better eye care and health, one needs to be aware, and VSA considers it its job to educate the public about their health care. The blogs, articles, and papers published on the website enlighten the masses about significant aspects of eye care in various environmental scenarios and elaborate on the association between multiple sustainable environmental SDGs with eye health, like climate action (SDG 13). The awareness of environmental issues is helping initiate movements and mobilizing the public to work for the restoration of a liveable and quality environment. The company provides equal opportunities to male and female researchers, thus promoting gender equality (SDG 5). VSA offers incentives and paid opportunities to authors for writing on eye ailments, helping attain SDG 8, decent work and economic growth, working for a good cause, and earning money that generates a sense of responsibility. The platform unites researchers and medical professionals from all over the world beyond cast, color, and ethnicities, thus promoting peace (SDG 16) and making them a team. This team, harmonised and united, looks up to the higher objective of promoting eye health through their knowledge. Thus, a sense of partnership (SDG 17) is inculcated in everyone to work for the great cause of eye health; all of that is impossible without teamwork.
Sustainability and eye care interrelate with each other in a very complex manner. Both are necessary for each other. The factors like poverty, climate change, and hunger impact the eyes significantly. The poor people do not have access to better health facilities. Also, they don’t have adequate food, which triggers diseases and deficiencies, especially among children. The fundamental step to fighting all the crises is awareness. VSA is spreading awareness among the masses and equipping professionals with up-to-date knowledge on eye health to play its part.
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Chua, S. Y., Khawaja, A. P., Morgan, J., Strouthidis, N., Reisman, C., Dick, A. D., Khaw, P. T., Patel, P. J., & Foster, P. J. (2019). The relationship between ambient atmospheric fine particulate matter (PM2. 5) and glaucoma in a large community cohort. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 60(14), 4915–4923.
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