Whilst VISION 2020 is a global initiative it always had a focus on Europe too
"Whilst VISION 2020 is a global initiative it has always had focus on Europe too," confirms Dr Kocur. "In 1998, just prior to its formation, there were a series of studies that looked at ophthalmic healthcare services in 12 of the Eastern and Central European countries. This looked at not just cataract surgery uptake but also vitreoretinal surgery and diabetic retinopathy and the human resourses issues surrounding these.
"This really helped us to understand that there was a need to develop human resources regionally. That didn't mean more ophthalmologists but it did reveal a need for more medical education and enhanced surgical skill training. One of the things we did was create a regional training centre in Prague which offered not only clinical training but also modules on management and preventative strategies.
"On average women in Europe are living a lot longer and much of the time end up living alone. What we are now finding is that these people are becoming isolated in many ways and what we need to increase is information provision. There is still a need to communicate that cataract surgery is available as an option for many and to have your eyes checked from time to time if vision is deteriorating with age, it is possible to improve it.
"Income is another issue in Eastern Europe, particularly when it comes to pensions. This can be limiting for many people. Again, women tend to lose out here where they may have to live on one pension and feel they have to economise."
Dr Kocur's overall message is that whilst a lot has been achieved by VISION 2020 we should not be complacent as WHO estimates that by 2020 there will be a global elderly population of some 698 million. National and regional VISION 2020 committees help bridge gender gaps in both young and elderly and provide a vital link to eye health care services.