Posted by Able News

The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA), the United Nations (UN) Department for Economic and Social Affairs, the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN, three organizations addressing vision loss, and more than 60 UN ambassadors and leaders from global non-governmental organizations gathered for a meeting and a unique dining experience at the UN in New York City.

Drawing on the newly released World Health Organization (WHO), “World Report on Vision,” the organizers called for immediate action to prevent the quickening rates of visual impairment and vision loss as we age. WHO claims that the vast majority of cases are avoidable with screening, treatment and access to quality care.

“Vision loss increases mortality risk, contributes to decline in physical function and reduces quality of life,” said Alan Morse, president of Lighthouse Guild. “By 2020, an estimated quarter of a billion people worldwide will have moderate or severe vision loss, and more than 36 million will be blind. These numbers are staggering and unacceptable. We must advocate to increase public education about vision loss; improve maternal health and nutrition, identify individuals at risk for, or affected by, vision loss; integrate vision care with all other health care services; and train healthcare professionals to identify and address vision loss.” 

Guests at the dinner wore blindfolds for the entire meal, only learning what they had eaten at the close of the evening. The menu was curated by American celebrity chef Christine Hà, who is blind. Known as “The Blind Cook,” she is a chef, author, restauranteur and winner of “Master Chef” season three.

“The Dine in the Dark experience puts sighted people in our shoes and makes them aware of the types of challenges we come across on a daily basis,” said Hà. “At the United Nations, ambassadors and other global decision-makers gained a first-hand appreciation of our sense of sight and what we can and should be doing to promote eye health for all.”

“That 2 billion will be over age 60 by mid-century and aging is identified in the new WHO report as the primary risk factor leading to visual impairment should be a clear call to action for all of us,” said Michael Hodin, CEO of the GCO.

Representatives from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), the Lighthouse Guild and the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) discussed key issues that need increased public awareness, such as the fact that vision loss is not just a normal part of aging and is largely preventable.

They also agreed that aging populations are causing the number of individuals with blindness to keep increasing, along with health care costs to nations. Attendees also called for a commitment to improving age and disability friendly cities that are accessible.