World Health Day is observed annually on April 7th.  The first celebration of World Health Day was in 1948 and since then it has created awareness of a priority health theme identified by the World Health Organization.  The theme for 2019 is “Health for all”.  Access to health care is a human right.  The World Health Organization has a goal to extend coverage of accessible health care by an additional one billion people before 2023. Universal health coverage aims to ensure all people and communities have access to quality health services where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship. This access to care includes prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

This campaign is complex and there are many factors to consider when building a strong primary health care system to improve quality of life for all.  This WHO campaign has a roadmap based on five attributes of quality health care services:  quality, efficiency, equity, accountability, sustainability and resilience. Some of the most challenging factors are changing public policy.  Ministers of health and other government decision-makers have to commit to taking action to address gaps in universal health coverage in their countries. Another factor is human resources, recruiting and training health care providers to provide care in their communities.

VOSH/International recognizes access to vision care as an important part of an individual’s health care.  Correcting refractive error, early detection and treatment of conditions that cause vision loss and identification of ocular changes that signify systemic diseases are all basic components of optometric care.  The field of optometry restores and protects vision and its integration in any health care system requires adequate investment and prioritisation of the services it offers as its impact can be substantial from enabling children to learn, adults to work and preventing the elderly to fall due to poor vision to name a few.  VOSH/International is active in supporting and training new generations of optometrist in countries where optometry is an emerging profession.  In conjunction with Brien Holden Vision Institute and Optometry Giving Sight, VOSH/International recruits and financially supports VOSH Corps, which places North American trained optometrists as faculty members in developing optometry schools.  Our Technology Transfer Program (TTP) helps provide examination equipment at these new optometry schools and community service clinics.  VOSH Chapters work to provide eye care services, when possible working with local health care, to those around the world that do not have access to or cannot afford such care. Only in terms of refractive error coverage VOSH/International makes an important contribution to the health of thousands each year.  With the move towards universal health coverage the clear contribution of optometry needs to be recognised and supported to generate the impact it is able to within health systems across the world.

For more information, please visit the World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/westernpacific/news/events/detail/2019/04/07/western-pacific-events/world-health-day-2019

Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI

President VOSH/International

 

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Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

VOSH/International recently consulted its US and International Chapters about the feasibility and timing to restart our humanitarian clinics. While the vaccination process continues with different levels of success depending on availability and acceptance, it is evident that vaccine inequity and the availability and reliability of data in several countries are issues we need to consider.

Even if already vaccinated, our chapters are still concerned about the wellbeing of our volunteers and patients.  Some chapters, are organizing clinics locally where they are better able to comply with the existing safety requirements and respective state/country regulations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced quite differently depending on state, region, country, vaccine availability, vaccine acceptance, and the spread of SARS-COV-2 variants. Most VOSH chapters are not holding clinics or traveling internationally in 2021.

Thus, VOSH/International is slightly moderating its overall guidance against clinics and travel issued in late March 2020 and renewed in January 2021. This will be reviewed and communicated on a quarterly basis.

If a VOSH Chapter choses to hold a clinic or travel internationally, we highly recommend that the chapter performs due diligence to comply fully with the requirements established by the visited country, ensures all VOSH volunteers are aware of and follow strict safety guidelines and all existing protocols and regulations of the country, and keeps the principle of “do no harm” embedded in all its decision making. As always, the wellbeing and safety for VOSH volunteers and our patients is of utmost importance and central to any decision-making process. We have published our updated clinic guidelines with best practices to be observed in this new context. VOSH chapters in specific countries are using protocols that need to be considered as well. You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here.

*VOSH/International is formed by autonomous US and international chapters that are fully and only responsible for their activities, fundraising and decision-making.  VOSH/International can only provide recommendations based on our best knowledge and information at the time.

Also please keep checking the following sites with official and most recent updates:

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/when-to-delay-travel.html

US Government Travel Advise: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

July 2021