FG launches national eye health policy for equitable access to care
The Federal Government has launched the National Eye Health Policy and inaugurated a National Eye Health Committee, to ensure equitable access to quality eye care services in Nigeria’s health system.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr Adeleke Mamora, represented by Dr Omobolanle Olowu, Director Special Projects, Public-Private Partnerships and Diaspora (DSP/PPP and Diaspora), inaugurated the policy, in Abuja, on Thursday.
Mamora said the policy was to scale-up existing eye healthcare services in the country.
He added that lack of awareness and inaccessibility to eye care was a possible reason why many Nigerians are visually impaired.
According to him, the National Eye Health policy is Nigeria’s first comprehensive National Eye Health Policy which scales-up existing eye health services and ensures that no one is left behind, through approaches that ensure equitable access to quality eye care services.
He said it would help the country in the achievement of universal eye health, as a part of universal health coverage in Nigeria.
Mamora said that the document had been adopted by the States and the Federal Capital Territory at the 64th meeting of the National Council on Health.
“it is believed that with this launch, adoption of the policy in the various states will begin.
Mamora, reiterated the importance of vision to the socio-economic development of the people.
He said that Nigeria, with other member states at the United Nations General Assembly recently, adopted the vision for everyone which formed accelerating action to achieve the sustainable development goals resolution,
According to him, it was aimed at committing the international community to eye health for the 1.1 billion people living with preventable sight loss by 2030.
“It, thus, enshrines eye health as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Evidence has shown that individuals with impaired vision have difficulty in the performance of their daily tasks.
”Inability to fend for themselves, thus lowering their productivity and consequently reducing their contribution to the economic growth of the nation,” he said.
Mamora said that it had also been established that the avoidance of blindness was key to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 1; no poverty) as vision loss alone costs the globe a whopping $411 billion annually.
“Following successful cataract surgery, the income bracket of 46 per cent of households moved up the economic ladder, thus contributing to eliminating the zero hunger in SDG 1.
“Thus, enshrining this document as part of our governance structure ensures that the majority of Nigerians have the potential to reduce the burden of blindness,” he said.
Mamora added that the document would ultimately lead to an increase in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and further enhance its economic growth.
He said that the document would put in place a framework for best practices and enhance competence based leadership in all strata of eye health.
“It will encompass optical, optometric, medical and surgical ophthalmology as well as allied health services. It also aims at ensuring that there is a patient centre inclusive eye health,” he said.
Mamora said the country needed access to quality eye care at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels without neglecting the rehabilitation of those who are already irreversibly blind.
He said that it would scale-up quality systems, through optimisation of the referral system within the healthcare industry, and also facilitate inter-sectorial collaboration with relevant stake holders.
In a country like Nigeria with a prevalence of 0.78 per cent of blindness, with women and the elderly affected the most, 84 per cent of these blinding diseases are avoidable, the Minister noted.
He said diseases like cataract, glaucoma, refractive errors, uncorrected aphakia, harmful traditional eye practices, corneal opacities and NTDs like trachoma and onchocerciasis can be avoided.
The document reduces those barriers by ensuring that there was a framework to strengthen and support the healthcare facilities and also reduces inequality in accessing eye health services, according to Mamora.
“With no attendant financial risk to the populace and ultimately ensuring equity in the provision of eye care services, partnerships with key stakeholders is one of the priority areas of the National Eye Health policy.
“This is because we believe partnership with relevant ministries, departments and donor agencies, like Sight Savers, helps to ensure that policies made affect the lives of common Nigerians in such a way that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals becomes imperative for us,” he said.
He added that the policy would also ensure that children get quality education, thus facilitating the achievement of SDG 4, as simple use of glasses for refractive errors reduces the odds of failing exams by 44 per cent.
The Head of National Eye Health Programme, Dr Oteri Okolo reflected that innovative financing and implementation would help in advancing the course of the policy.