Statement of Dr Kidong Park on the occasion of 100th Anniversary of Hanoi Institute of Ophthalmology and 60th Anniversary of Viet Nam National Institution of Ophthalmology

Dr Kidong Park
24 November 2017

I would like to express our sincere thanks for inviting WHO to attend your important event, cerebrating 100th Anniversary of Hanoi Institute of Ophthalmology and 60th Anniversary of Viet Nam National Institute of Ophthalmology.

I would also add my congratulation to the launch of the National Strategy of Blindness Prevention which is line with WHO's Global Action Plan for Universal Eye Health and an associated Regional Action Plan.

Globally visual impairment and blindness cause a huge health and social burden. WHO estimates that about 253 million people live with vision impairment. The vast majority of these people are aged 50 years or above. Uncorrected refractive errors and un-operated cataract are the top two causes of vision impairment. Un-operated cataract remains the leading cause of blindness in low- and middle-income countries.

Also in Viet Nam, visual impairment and blindness are an important health and social issue. It is estimated that still about 330,000 blind people and 2.1 million people living with low vision.

The good news is that over 80% of all vision impairment can be prevented or cured. Many advancement in diagnosis and treatment have brought back sight for many patients.

In Viet Nam, we have seen already a significant reduction in the prevalence of bilateral blindness of almost 60% between the years 2000 and 2015.

Ladies and gentlemen,
However, it is too early to open the Champaign to celebrate these achievement. As Viet Nam’s population is rapidly ageing and the risk of visual impairment increases with age, Viet Nam will face an increasing burden of blindness if the current trend continues.

In order to address these challenges, WHO promotes universal eye health. Universal eye health requires provision of effective and accessible eye care services for effectively controlling visual impairment, including blindness.

Eye care services should be strengthened through their integration into the health system rather than through their provision in the vertical program approach.

Eye care services should be an integrated part of primary health care, with the close monitoring and technical support from higher levels.

Priorities should be given to the main causes of visual impairment that are treatable or preventable, i.e. un-operated cataract, uncorrected refractive error (especially in school age children) and diabetic retinopathy among diabetes patients (as NCD burden has been increasing).

Ladies and gentleman,

I am sure if Viet Nam implement the National Strategy of Blindness Prevention successfully, you will achieve the goal of reduction of avoidable blindness by 25% by 2020.

WHO in Viet Nam has worked closely with MOH, Viet Nam National Institution of Ophthalmology VNIO and other counterparts in capacity building, generating evidence on the magnitude and causes of visual impartment and eye care services, to monitor progress, identify priorities and advocate for the development and issuance of National Strategy on Blindness Prevention and Control.

We will continue to collaborate with our partners to provide our technical support for the effective implementation of National Strategy on Blindness Prevention and Control in the new period. All stakeholders must join this effort toward the goal where nobody is needlessly visually impaired; where people who have experienced unavoidable vision loss can achieve their full potential, and universal access to comprehensive eye care services has been achieved.

Thank you.

Dr Kidong Park