Tracy L. Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI
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Imagine losing your sight and with it your capacity to be independent, access education, work or engage socially. In the world more than one billion people live with some form of disability. Visual disability affects 217 million people with moderately or severely visual impairment and 36 million with blindness. 2.5 billion people around the world have uncorrected refractive error with 1.1 needing near correction due to presbyopia (https://visionimpactinstitute.org/). 80% of those affected by disability live in developing countries and are among those most marginalised.
Since 1992, on December 3rd the International Day of Disabled Persons is observed across the world. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. You can read more about it here: http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/background.shtml
One hundred and seventy seven countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The purpose is to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/ConventionRightsPersonsWithDisabilities.aspx
Through our 84 chapters worldwide, VOSH/International reaches some of the most needed communities across the world bringing essential eye health care and preventing many people becoming permanently visually disabled. Our community clinics deliver quality and equitable refraction, low vision, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy detection. We often engage in partnerships to offer cataract surgeries and manage ocular disease. VOSH is also working to support the development of optometry schools in several countries through faculty deployment, technology transfer program and VOSH clinics joining locally optometry to expand local capacity. Through our support to global campaigns such as Our children’s vision we contribute to expanding access to eye health services for children across the world.
As a low vision specialist, I have witnessed the difference the glasses and magnification devices can make to the lives of people who would otherwise be unable to carry out ordinary activities we take for granted. Every optometrist knows the power of refraction and ocular health assessment to allow clear vision to travel, work, go to school. On this International Day of People with Disabilities, I want to reiterate VOSH/International’s commitment to ensuring eye health services are inclusive, accessible, affordable and of good quality for everyone so avoidable visual impairment can be reduced, and more people can enjoy their lives free of visual disability.
Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI
VOSH Annual Meeting
VOSH/International held its 26th Annual Meeting on October 13, 2018 in Montreal, Canada in collaboration with VOSH- Santa Cruz hosts of this event. Eighty people from six countries, including India, Romania, Mexico, UK, USA and Canada, attended a full day of inspiring speakers, chapter update sessions, exhibitors and networking.
Father Pierre Labine and VOSH-Santa Cruz, https://voshohv.org/, have been an incredibly active VOSH chapter for over 20 years, helping people in their own community and around the world. Their special guests to the meeting-Mrs. DÌaz and her son Gustavo- had been doing humanitarian work in their hometown and surrounding area in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and collaborating with VOSH-Santa Cruz for over 20 years ago to provide eyecare and glasses to those in need. Gustavo Diaz, gave a passionate and powerful presentation at the VOSH annual meeting about the impact of the work of this VOSH chapter on his community highlighting the important networks of local support that VOSH chapters are able to build with local community leaders .
Many other speakers also provided motivation and important information. These included:
- Dr. Luigi Bilotto (BHVI) spoke on Sustainable Eye Health and Enhancing Optometry Around the World
- Dr. Yogita Rajgandhi (VOSH-India) spoke on the State of Optometric Care in India and how VOSH Can Help
- Dr. Vicki Weiss (VOSH-VA) spoke on VOSH Efforts Domestically and Keys to Success
- Catherine Lamorena and Yatzie Ponce provided information on Surgical Eye Expedition International and Partnership Opportunities
- Dr. Asa Morton, MD, spoke on Ophthalmological Collaboration with HELPS International
- Andrea Haymore and Kirstin Jones presented on the Essilor Vision Foundation’s New Programs to help VOSH for Local Outreach
- All present VOSH Chapters were also invited to report on chapter activities, strengths and challenges.
At the Annual Meeting, there were two awards given for exemplary service. The Humanitarian of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Jordan Kassalow founder of Vision Spring, http://visionspring.org/. Dr. Kassalow went on a VOSH trip as a student and spoke of the impact of placing a pair of highly myopic glasses on a young boy that had never had glasses. For the first time the boy was able to see and Dr. Kassalow found his vision. Since then Dr. Kassalow has dedicated his life to the provision of glasses and vision to people worldwide. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. V.E. (Bud) Falkenhain, OD of VOSH-Missouri. Dr. Falkenhain was a good friend of VOSH founder Dr. Franklin Harms. Dr. Falkenhain was the second president of VOSH/International and longtime president of VOSH-Missouri. He has done VOSH service for over 40 years and sums up the VOSH experience perfectly with: “A VOSH mission can be a life changing experience, not only for the person receiving the care, but also for the person giving the care.”
Exhibitors included Joseph Villari from Good-Lite and Essilor Vision Foundation. The meeting was sponsored by the generous support from National Vision, Inc. To read more about the 2018 speakers and meeting please visit:
The VOSH family gave a warm farewell and showed their appreciation for an outstanding work to Natalie Venezia as departing Executive Director and welcomed Maria Arce-Moreira to the post.
Mark your calendars for the next VOSH Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida on Sunday October 27, 2019 to be held immediately after the 3rdWorld Congress of Optometry presented by the World Council of Optometry in partnership with the American Academy of Optometry (Oct. 23-26, 2019) . Our theme at the VOSH Annual Meeting will be “Big Vision, Small World”, looking at optometry globally. I hope you can all join us there.
Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI
World Sight Day 2018: Eye Care Everywhere
Thursday October 11, 2018
World Sight Day (WSD) is observed annually on the second Thursday of October. It is a global event to draw attention to the problem of worldwide blindness and vision impairment. The aim of WSD is to increase public awareness around the world about prevention and treatment of vision loss. WSD was started by the Campaign SightFirst of Lions Club International Foundation in 2000 and has since been integrated into VISION 2020 and coordinated by The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO).
An estimated 180 million people worldwide are visually disabled. Of those, between 40 and 45 million persons are blind. Eighty percent of all cases of blindness can be prevented or treated. From the WHO website: “Prevention and treatment of vision loss are among the most cost-effective and successful of all health interventions. These interventions include: cataract surgery to cure this eye disease related to ageing; prevention of trachoma; provision of the drug ivermectin for the treatment of the infectious disease river blindness; immunization against measles; provision of vitamin A supplements for the prevention of childhood blindness; and provision of eyeglasses.”
The WHO Global Action Plan 2014-19 supports the provision of effective and accessible eye care services for effectively controlling visual impairment including blindness. The Global Action Plan’s vision states: “A world in which nobody is needlessly visually impaired, where those with unavoidable vision loss can achieve their full potential and where there is universal access to comprehensive eye care services.” Member States at the World Health Assembly (WHA) unanimously adopted this plan in 2013 as part of WHA resolution 66.4.
The annual World Sight Day provides an opportunity to become more aware and committed to ensuring the right to sight for all. Hundreds of events will take place throughout the world to mark this occasion. In 2017, IABP recorded 608 WSD events taking place in 115 countries. These events included awareness events, seminars, launches, donation drives, rallies and online events.
So what can we do? We can promote WSD and raise funds that will go towards the objectives of: increasing awareness of this public health issue; mobilizing additional resources for blindness prevention; controlling the major causes of avoidable blindness; training eye care doctors and professionals and providing appropriate technology and infrastructure. In the US and Canada, Optometry Giving Sight (OGS) provides an easy framework in which to raise funds for WSD called the WSD Challenge. For a pledge of $250 or more, OGS will provide a free WSD Challenge Practice Kit that includes wristbands, donor cards, balloons, stickers, counter card, and more. Get involved and be a part of WSD to help with the right to sight!
To read more about World Sight Day, WHO Global Action Plan 2014-19 and Vision 2020:
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
Optometry Giving Sight
World Health Organization
Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI