China Power: Together for Universal Eye Health

2015-11-09


The 2015 Council of Members Meeting brought more than 250 delegates and 70 organizations to Beijing from across the world - and from across China – to talk about blindness prevention. It also gave us a special chance to put the spotlight on China.

Held in association with China’s National Blindness Prevention Committee and supported by the members of the IAPB China Committee, the China Day sessions on 13 October featured new insights into eye health in China and shared new ideas on ways to manage avoidable blindness conditions. Ms Xiang Hu, a senior representative from the National Health and Family Planning Commission (China’s health ministry) presented on the government’s recent efforts, including work to increase cataract surgical volumes, eliminating trachoma as a public health problem, leading a national blindness prevalence survey and developing an early draft of the country’s action plan for 2016-2020. Xiang Hu also spoke about refractive error, and said the government was considering a national response to improve the correction of refractive error, particularly in China. Studies have found that myopia is responsible for more than 90% of poor vision among children in China.

 

Xiang Hu, along with Prof Ningli Wang (Chair of China’s National Committee) took questions from participants on issues such as medical aid in China’s remote areas, building primary eye care and leveraging private and non-government forces for eye health.

 

Findings from a recent study on visual impairment conducted in 9 provinces, presented during China Day, found that the prevalence of blindness had decreased by 25% on figures from 8 years ago. China’s government led the study, with financial support from Orbis and Bayer. China’s national cataract surgery rate (CSR) has increased steadily. In 2010, the CSR was just 915; in 2014 it was estimated to be 1425. The growth is commendable, but China still lags behind many neighbouring countries in surgical coverage and productivity. Disparities remain between many urban and rural communities; however, health insurance coverage in China is broad and covers almost the entire population. The main government schemes offer reimbursements for cataract surgery and other treatments, while some out-of-pocket costs remain.

 

Programs and research were also showcased by IAPB members and provincial representatives, with discussion centered on three themes:

?     Cataract: Reach out with screening and provide high-quality, low cost surgery for all.

?     Refractive error: Free glasses open up a world of educational opportunities for a child. 

?     Diabetes: Treatment begins before vision declines, and continues throughout life.

 

The great success of the meeting was a credit to members of the IAPB China Committee. The Committee was only established this year, and has already demonstrated the benefits of working together. Next year committee members will continue to share knowledge at the Annual government-NGO Coordination Forum, the Chinese version of the Community Eye Health Journal, workshops and other activities to work towards Universal Eye Health.