On the occasion of World Sight Day, and in the backdrop of the launch of the World Report on Vision by Vision 2020 INDIA to mark the day, Dr Rishi Raj Borah, Country Director, Orbis India, steers the conversation towards the importance of annual eye check up and ensuring we love our and our children's eyes

Given the increasing push we have seen in the past one and a half years to live our lives through digital devices, adults and children alike, are our eyes getting affected?

Should we be worried about having dryness in our eyes or is there more? The pandemic has, in fact, taken a toll on our physical health, mental health and even eye health!

It has been estimated that with increasing time indoors and the digital strain we have been subjected to because of the pandemic, the myopia progression is set to increase. Can myopia progression be dealt with?

The World Report on Vision states that there are a range of optical, pharmacological, behavioral and surgical interventions to delay the onset or slow down the progression of myopia. But preventive measures cannot be taken for the condition. This is, especially, true for children who have had to switch to online from physical classes and remain in home confinement as against playing outdoors with friends.

The World Report on Vision states that there are a range of optical, pharmacological, behavioral and surgical interventions to delay the onset or slow down the progression of myopia. But preventive measures cannot be taken for the condition.

Annual Eye Check Up

How can we ensure we do not neglect our, our family’s and, most importantly, children’s eyes? Can we help ourselves and our children just by giving them a healthy and balanced diet as we spend more time indoors? Can we try to cut down on screen time? Yes, we can. As we gradually learn to grapple with the trying times, we learn to adapt, pick up on the issues and solve them one by one.

Similarly, as the COVID-19 vaccination drive continues in the country and we inch towards herd immunity, we need to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our eyes just as much as any other organ. The simplest way to do that is annual eye checkup.

What Does It Take to Love Your and Your Child’s Eyes This World Sight Day?

The IAPB World Sight Day 2021 theme is so apt, ‘Love Your Eyes.’ Loving your eyes is not just about going to a doctor when you have an eye problem.

Dr Rishi Raj Borah

Country Director, Orbis India

Lov­ing your eyes is not just about going to a doc­tor when you have an eye prob­lem. Lov­ing your eyes stems from lov­ing your­self-tak­ing care of your­self, always. So, if you love your­self, you will love every part of you, eyes being a cru­cial part of you.

Eye problems among children is a little more complex than it is among adults. Since Often our young ones will not be able to express their difficulty in seeing or even be cognizant of the fact that they have a vision problem to begin with. Parents, then, have a crucial to identify their child's eye condition early on. Although there are certain ways and signs that you can pick up from your child's viewing behavior, there is a high likelihood that many of us do not pay attention to our children's each and every move. Sometimes, signs and symptoms are also not enough for certain eye condition or even other health conditions. You must have heard of the saying: "Eyes are the window to one's soul." In the case of eye health, a problem in your eyes act as the window to many other conditions other than just the eye even. So, a proactive annual eye test is crucial to diagnose early. The sooner, the better for your child to get his/her eye problem addressed.

Let me be direct: if you have access to quality eye care, you have no reason to avoid annual eye checkup for yourself, your child and family. So, mark this World Sight Day and every year following 2021 with this simple gift to yourself and do not shy away from spreading the message as a gift to your near and dear ones.

The Orbis Mission in India During the Pandemic

Now, think of families who do not have easy access to care in small pockets of India. Being unable to get eye care doesn't just take away sight. It closes doors to school and play, jobs and livelihoods, participation in community life and the ability to thrive. Nonprofits like Orbis, constantly work with local eye hospitals in these small pockets to ensure families, especially children, do not lose sight for avoidable causes.

During the pandemic, we re-strategized with our partner hospitals to continue working towards accessible eye health for the community. In that regard, we brought forth some laudable initiatives such as establishing and supporting more vision centers while also turning them green, sending Vision Vans to provide further access, taking services to the doorstep of the community through door-to-door eye screenings. All these activities, most importantly, helped reaching children even as lockdowns and restrictions led to shut down of schools, non-formal schools and Anganwadi centers.

Eye Care Is a Collective Effort

I want to point out that we cannot expect our efforts to work wonders if we do them in isolation. The need to work in collaboration became most obvious during the outbreak of COVID-19. The accomplishments that Orbis can talk of is only because of its collaboration with its long-standing and resilient partner hospital network who in turn worked with several community based organizations and local authorities to ensure we did not lose track.

I want to reiterate, prioritizing eye care is not an individual but collective effort: one which needs collaborative efforts among the government or administrative authorities, organizations like Orbis, eye care institutes and other stakeholders. The World Report on Vision launch by Vision 2020: INDIA this World Sight Day is timely in that context. It underlines the need for collaborations and encourages us to work further in areas that need focus.

One such simple intervention is annual eye checkup. You, as an individual with the beautiful gift of sight, are a key stakeholder and this World Sight Day and every year in the future, you have the power to affect change by prioritizing your and your children’s eye health.

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