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What a time to attend GA2020! The year, 2020, marks the end of the VISION 2020: The Right to Sight period. We are also deep into deliberations around the WHO’s World Report on Vision and the future of eye care beyond 2020, with the promise of delivering eye health for all. The GA programme will have three themes, “Excellence”, “Eye care in the Western Pacific” and “Sustainability”. I will be remiss if I don’t mention our excellent social programme—always a great opportunity to network, build new friendships and cement existing partnerships.

I’m delighted to be heading the Sustainability theme animating the GA2020 programme. Broadly, the GA programme I am chairing over will be focusing on two aspects of sustainability: Financial and environmental. Over the years, I have come to realise a key truth: environmental sustainability and financial sustainability are not two independent or conflicting aspects but are complementary to each other. The GA programme will look to understand the inter-play between these two aspects, so that we can all benefit from the efficiencies and savings they afford.

In the eye health context, financial sustainability is about enhancing revenue and controlling the cost of providing eye care. As for environmental sustainability, it would be a mistake to dismiss it as “philanthropy”. An eye health system that is environment-friendly focuses on business decisions that address operational challenges. It looks at opportunities to tackling sourcing and supply-chain-management issues, or even to optimising real estate portfolios. 

Such a radical re-examination of our management practices can lead to enhanced health benefits to the patients, cost reduction (by improving efficiency) for providers and overall economic improvement for the communities we serve. In the year 2020, with climate change topping global agendas, we would be morally remiss if we do not examine eye care’s environmental foot-print and identify ways to address it. I believe the sector has many effective and practicable solutions to discuss and share, and the GA programme will be a great opportunity to exchange notes. We also realise this is a great opportunity to bring in our partners from other sectors. So, the co-chairs will solicit active participation from health economists, manufacturers of eye care equipment and supplies, hospital architects and climate change experts. Now is the time for change; Act now.

Dr. R. Venkatesh, GA2020 Programme Co-Chair for Sustainability,
Aravind Eye Hospital, Pondicherry