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Canadian Vision Care in the Global Context: Review of the 5-Year Strategic Plan from the WHO

What's the WHO? How do they fit into vision care?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is an international body that has recently been in the headlines as their fight against Covid-19 continues. However, before the pandemic, WHO was best known for its global effort to bring change and improvement to healthcare. Canada is a significant contributor to the WHO and has played a role in the development of international healthcare.

In 2013, the WHO commissioned a team to develop a 5-year (2014-2019) strategic plan that would outline what can be done to improve visual impairments worldwide. In this article, we highlight the insights that sparked the need for change as well as the recommendations outlined in the plan.

Now that we are in 2020, we will be able to find out how successful the measures were and what role Canada played in improving vision around the world.

Global Insights

  • 75% of all causes of visual impairment are preventable or curable

  • Around 285 million people were visually impaired in 2010, with 39 million of them being legally blind

  • Refractive services, like eyeglasses, can dramatically improve eye health and reduce vision loss over time

  • 66% of visually impaired people around the world could recover good sight with appropriate access to timely eyeglasses and other refractive services or cataract surgery

  • There is strong evidence that comprehensive eye care services need to become an integral part of primary health care and health systems development

Summary of the 5-Year Plan

The WHO plan, which includes effort from Canada and Canadian eyecare professionals, includes 3 objectives and 5 principles to help advance vision health around the world.


1. Grow the evidence to understand the problem

  • The better the evidence, the better the results will be! Innovation of vision health starts with doing more research and knowing what causes and cures eye vision loss

2. Integrated national eye health policies

  • When national leaders take vision health seriously and integrate into overall Canadian healthcare, good things will happen, and outcomes will be improved for eye care patients

3. Effective partnerships

  • It is critical for eye health practitioners to grow relationships with other health providers to collaborate on improving eye, vision, and overall health outcomes for patients


1. Universal access

  • All people should have the ability to seek and receive vision care

2. Human rights

  • The pursuit of better eye health aligns with basic human rights ideas to allow people to live better, fuller lives

3. Evidence-based practice

  • Your vision and eye health matters. Let's work together as a community to do the necessary research to support the best possible treatments

4. A life course approach

  • There are many factors to consider when determining health that includes social and cultural contexts. This is a commitment to understanding your eye health as it fits in with your other health needs

5. Empowerment of people with visual impairment

  • Make sure that people with vision loss can still have all the tools necessary to maintain the best possible eye health even if vision loss has already occurred

What this means for you

The strong commitments outlined by the WHO, along with Canada's participation, means that greater innovation and empowerment is a major focus of your healthcare professionals. Vision professionals like opticians are working to build a better, brighter future with less vision loss and greater eye health for you.

Ontario Opticians Association advice to keep your eyes healthy

1. Wear sunglasses

  • UV rays can cause damage to your vision. Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses

2. Know your family history

  • Eye diseases can be hereditary. Make sure you know what you might be in risk of getting

3. Live a healthy lifestyle

  • A healthy body weight, nutritious food, and abstaining from smoking can help you better manage chronic conditions

4. Use protective eyewear

  • Prevent injuries on the job, playing sports, or adapted to whatever situation you're in!

Ask an optician for advice on what eyewear works best for your needs


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