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The universal eye health imperative for Canada: an inescapable reality of unmet need

Abstract

Universal eye health is a component of universal health care, which member states of the World Health Organization have supported in principle through their endorsement of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment (2014–2019). While much of the world’s attention has been on addressing the needs of developing countries which suffer significant shortcomings in terms of effective and accessible eye care services, similar access inequities exist in developed nations such as Canada. The Canadian health system is based on the principle of universal health coverage; yet, for the majority of the population, access to primary eye care services such as an eye examination and spectacles is an out-of-pocket expense. Therefore, despite the global call for universal eye health, Canada has still not made relevant policy shifts in terms of addressing the structural barriers to all its citizens accessing primary eye care services within its health system, despite active advocacy efforts of key stakeholder groups in eye health. There is, therefore, an inescapable reality of unmet eye care needs, which Canada must address if it is to meet the World Health Organization’s goals of universal eye health.

Résumé

La santé oculaire universelle est une composante des soins de santé universels, que les États membres de l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé ont appuyée en principe en approuvant le Plan d’action mondial pour la cécité et les déficiences visuelles évitables (2014−2019). L’attention du monde a surtout porté sur les besoins des pays en développement qui souffrent de lacunes importantes en termes de services de soins ophtalmologiques efficaces et accessibles, mais des inégalités d’accès similaires existent dans des pays développés tels que le Canada. Le système de santé canadien repose sur le principe de la couverture maladie universelle; pourtant, pour la majorité de la population, l’accès aux services de soins oculaires primaires, tels que les examens de la vue et les lunettes, constitue une dépense directe. Par conséquent, malgré l’appel mondial en faveur de la santé oculaire universelle, le Canada n’a toujours pas procédé à des changements de politique pertinents en ce qui concerne la suppression des obstacles structurels à l’accès aux services de soins oculaires dans son système de santé. Ceci en dépit des efforts actifs de plaidoyer des groupes de parties prenantes clés dans la santé oculaire. Il existe donc une réalité inévitable de besoins non satisfaits en matière de soins ophtalmologiques, que le Canada doit prendre en compte pour répondre aux objectifs de l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé, qui est la santé universelle des yeux.

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Correspondence to Diane van Staden.

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van Staden, D. The universal eye health imperative for Canada: an inescapable reality of unmet need. Can J Public Health 111, 627–630 (2020). https://doi.org/10.17269/s41997-020-00307-4

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Keywords

  • Insurance, vision
  • Health systems plans
  • Universal health insurance
  • Primary health care
  • Health services accessibility

Mots-clés

  • Assurance, vision
  • Plans de systèmes de santé
  • Assurance maladie universelle
  • Soins de santé primaires
  • Accessibilité des services de santé