Galimedix Therapeutics, Inc. To Present at Ophthalmology Innovation Summit During the American Academy of Ophthalmology Meeting

KENSINGTON, Md. and SHORASHIM, Israel , Oct. 08, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Galimedix Therapeutics, Inc., which is developing new solutions for neurodegenerative diseases of the retina and the brain, today announced that Chief Scientific Officer, Hermann Russ, M.D., Ph.D., will provide an overview of the company and of the new development strategy with its novel, first–in–class, investigational compound, GAL–101 at the Ophthalmology Innovation Summit at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting (OIS@ AAO) on October 10, 2019 in San Francisco.

GAL–101 is a small molecule and has a unique mechanism of action targeting amyloid beta oligomers in an unprecedented way. There is a growing body of evidence that the toxic amyloid beta oligomers represent a major pathological factor leading to functional loss and neurodegeneration in the retina of glaucoma and dry AMD patients. GAL–101 blocks the formation of the toxic amyloid beta oligomers at source, prevents in vitro lethal toxicity to neurons and shows pronounced neuroprotective effects in animal models. "In addition, we now have demonstrated that GAL–101 can also restore neuronal function in cells that have lost their function under the toxic influence of amyloid beta oligomers" says Dr. Russ, who will present these data.

Based on the new data on functional restoration, Galimedix now plans to conduct clinical Phase 2 studies with GAL–101 eyedrops in glaucoma and dry AMD patients. Given the drug's mechanism for clearing the toxic amyloid beta oligomers from the retinas of patients with either glaucoma or dry AMD, the goal is to prove that the GAL–101 eyedrops cause an improvement of visual function, as measured by visual fields or by microperimetry, respectively. "We have made great progress in the development of our asset and are convinced this is a unique opportunity to provide superior treatment options to patients with degenerative retina diseases in the future" states Dr. Andrew Pearlman, Founder and CEO of Galimedix Therapeutics, Inc.

About GAL–101
GAL–101 is a proprietary compound designed to prevent the formation of all forms of toxic amyloid beta oligomers by binding with high affinity to only the misfolded form of amyloid beta monomers before they can form toxic soluble oligomers. These then rapidly conglomerate into amorphous, non–beta–sheet formations, which we call "clusters," which are innocuous. Interestingly, once GAL–101 concentration reaches effective levels it triggers formation of the clusters, which then have shown the capacity to collect additional misfolded amyloid beta monomers even in the absence of additional GAL–101 molecules, through a self–propagating mechanism. This novel "trigger effect," protected by Galimedix' patent portfolio, results in a sustained effect lasting far longer than the time a single administration of the drug remains at therapeutic levels in the retina, potentially allowing for a convenient interval application regimen for patients. Thus, GAL–101 drops may potentially provide sustained prevention of formation of toxic amyloid beta oligomers in the retina, leading to a reduction of complement response and their consequent damage. Thus GAL–101 could contribute to slowing or stopping progression, and possible restoration of neural function depressed by the chronic toxic attack.

About Galimedix Therapeutics, Inc.
Based in the United States and Israel, Galimedix is a Phase 2–ready ophthalmic pharmaceutical company with a world class drug development team advancing a novel, patented small molecule drug with a novel MOA addressing glaucoma and dry AMD utilizing an eye drops delivery platform, which may offer significant safety and compliance advantages over commonly used direct ocular injections. Eye drops are used to deliver steroids and other small molecules, like GAL–101, to the retina, and studies with Galimedix's eye drops in monkeys have demonstrated therapeutic levels quickly reaching the retina of the closest model to humans. Compelling efficacy data from GAL–101 eye drops in relevant animal models have demonstrated more than 90 percent neuroprotection, and the compound is supported by several leading experts in glaucoma and in dry AMD who also support the design of the company's proposed Phase 2 studies.

Galimedix has exclusive worldwide license from Tel Aviv University, following return of license by a German pharma (Merz) due to management change and strategic pivot away from neuroscience. The license also includes a next generation, potentially superior molecule intended for oral delivery, with potential to treat retinal and other CNS diseases.

Contact:
Jules Abraham
Core IR
julesa@coreir.com
917–885–7378

Beware High-Fat Diets

By Wan Manan Muda and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Oct 8 2019 – Two decades into the 21st century, all too many people still associate being ‘overweight’ with prosperity, health and wellbeing, mainly because being thin has long been associated with being emaciated due to hunger, undernourishment and malnutrition.

Overweight and obesity can easily be assessed by anthropometric measures, including the body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. But BMI thresholds for overweight and obesity may differ by ethnic group or country.

Wan Manan Muda

The standard World Health Organization (WHO) BMI cut-off for overweight is 25, while the threshold for obesity is 30, understood as an abnormally high percentage of fat, which can be either generalized or localized.

Obesity pandemic
In 2014, McKinsey Global Institute estimated 2.1 billion overweight people, including the obese, then almost 30% of the world’s population. The related economic burden was estimated to be over US$2 trillion, a close third to civil conflicts and smoking.

By 2016, an estimated 1.97 billion adults and over 338 million children and adolescents worldwide were categorized as overweight or obese, following the rapid increase in overweight, including obesity, in recent decades.

An estimated 6% of children under 5 years of age were overweight in 2016, up from 5.3% in 2005. Similarly, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among adults rose by 27% between 1980 and 2013.

The situation in many middle-income developing countries is especially dire as higher incomes and more food consumption have reduced hunger while worsening other forms of malnutrition, including ‘hidden hunger’ or micronutrient deficiencies. The resulting health condition of much of the population generally imposes heavy costs for themselves, their families and their nations, while reducing their incomes.

Role of the brain
Obesity is typically due to nutrient imbalances where food ingested is stored as fat, instead of being utilized for energy and metabolism. Epidemiological evidence suggests ‘high fat’ and carbohydrate diets contribute to obesity, and the relationship between dietary fat and the degree of obesity.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Although there is now a near consensus that unhealthy diets worsen obesity and health, less is known about neurological changes to the brain due to such diets. Recent research finds that high-fat diets — specifically those with considerable fats and carbohydrates — contribute to irregularities in parts of the brain regulating body weight.

A recent study found that high-fat diets stimulate inflammation in the brains of mice, triggering physical changes in such cells, and encouraging the mice to eat more and become obese. As this happens before the body displays signs of obesity and body weight changes, it implies that high-fat diets induce the brain to want to eat more.

Thus, it is possible that high-fat diets may not just affect humans physically, but also alter food intake neurologically. Hence, it is detrimental when food rich in fat and carbohydrates is easily available, encouraging even more eating.

Health threats
Many factors contribute to obesity, including lifestyle, diet, individual genetics and gut bacteria. Besides high fat and carbohydrate diets, immune system activity can also contribute to obesity, although details remain unclear.

The presence of large numbers of fat cells changes micro-biomes inside the body, causing the body to respond negatively. Worryingly, obesity has been closely linked to various chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

Recent research also clarifies how they affect various diseases of the brain, including Alzheimer’s, a neurological disorder associated with changes in brain cells more prevalent among the obese.

Such evidence continues to grow. Therefore, high fat diets have not only contributed to the developing world’s overweight and obesity pandemic, but may also have caused damage to brains and brain functioning.

Prevention better than cure
Changing diets, food consumption and human behaviour have all contributed to the nutrition transition and obesity pandemic.

While the developing world makes slow progress in overcoming hunger, or dietary energy undernourishment, much more needs to be done to educate the public about problems of malnutrition besides macronutrient deficiencies.

Micronutrient deficiencies, or ‘hidden hunger’, as well as diet-related non-communicable diseases also need to be addressed.

Already, those associated with overweight and obesity have been growing rapidly to pandemic proportions in recent decades, mainly due to dietary and other behavioural changes.

The authors recently co-authored Addressing Malnutrition in Malaysia available at: www.krinstitute.org

UN Women Ambassadors Rise to New Heights But Fall Short of Gender Parity

Circle of Women Ambassadors

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 8 2019 – New York’s diplomatic community has continued to be enriched by a record number of women Permanent Representatives (PRUNs)—50 in all, as of October 2 – compared with about 15 to 20 back in the 1980s and early 1990s.

But the history-making number is still short of gender parity, falling far behind the 140 men who are PRUNs in the 193-member General Assembly, the highest policy-making body at the United Nations.

The remaining three women are designated Charge d’Affaires ad interim or acting heads of their respective diplomatic missions – and don’t hold the rank of PRUN.

https://protocol.un.org/dgacm/pls/site.nsf/files/HoM/$FILE/HeadsofMissions.pdf

The 50 PRUNs, who are also designated as Ambassadors, are members of an exclusive association called the “Circle of Women Ambassadors”— even as the circle has steadily kept widening.

The only other glass-shattering UN event took place in September 2014 when six of the 15 members of the UN Security Council– long monopolized by men– were women.

“It’s a little strange that it’s taken us this long,” Ambassador Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg, was quoted as saying, more than five years ago.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told delegates last week that “no country in the world is on track to attain gender equality by 2030, and women continue to be hampered by discriminatory laws, unequal access to opportunities and protections, high levels of violence, and damaging norms and attitudes.”

So, gender parity among men and women ambassadors may be a long way off.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, and a one-time UN Under-Secretary-General told IPS: “To me any progress which manifests equality and representation of women’s recognized engagement is welcome.”

The fact that, at the moment, the number of women Permanent Representatives to the UN at its headquarters has reached the highest point ever is a development worthy of our attention, he said.

“However, we have a long way to go even to reach the numerical equality among 193 Member States”, said Ambassador Chowdhury, the initiator of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 as President of the Security Council in March 2000: a resolution that underlined the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and on peace negotiations and peace-building.

“In this context, I recall the Call to Action by civil society (which I proudly co-signed) for the world leaders on 25 September 2013 as they converged in New York for the General Assembly’s high level meetings urging them to take action for equality of women’s participation at all decision-making levels in four areas”, he added.

    • 1. Appointment of a woman as the next UN Secretary-General. [reality: none out of 9 Secretaries-General in 74 years of UN history]

 

    • 2. Nomination of Women as future Presidents of the General Assembly by the Regional Groups. [reality: only 4 out of 74 Presidents]

 

    • 3. Election of More Women as Heads of Various UN Governing Bodies, [reality: overwhelmingly underrepresented by women]

 

    4. Appointment by Member-states of More Women as Ambassadors to the UN in New York and Geneva. [reality: overwhelmingly underrepresented by women]

On all four points, the UN community needs to do much more to call it history-making, said Ambassador Chowdhury.

Kshenuka Senewiratne, Sri Lanka’s trailblazing ambassador– her country’s first female permanent representative (PRUN) in over 63 years– told IPS that gender empowerment has continued to advance in her home country, even as women outnumber men in many walks of life, and particularly in higher education.

She said this is also reflected in the Sri Lankan foreign service where women have dominated over men in open competitive exams.

“And it is possible the same trends continue in many developing nations— even as the UN tries to advance its 2030 Development Agenda where gender empowerment remains one of the priorities.”

But still, “I have yet to hear my colleagues here say that it was a concerted gesture of gender balance that they got posted to New York,” she declared.

Barbara Crossette, a former UN Bureau Chief for the New York Times, told IPS: “My initial thought is that this phenomenon of more powerful women in diplomacy is not unlike women rising on their own in politics and not just by inheriting leadership as widows, daughters or other kin of men, such as Indira Gandhi, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Benazir Bhutto, Chandrika Kumaratunga or Cristina Fernández de Kirchner”.

She pointed out there are now more Angela Merkels, Michelle Bachelets or Elizabeth Warrens, to name only a few.

“Women are also rising in international agencies and civil society organizations, gaining expertise in global affairs, geopolitics and armed conflict, often in uniform and wearing a peacekeeper’s beret”, said Crossette, the senior consulting editor and writer for PassBlue and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation.

Asked whether more female diplomats will aid the cause of greater gender equality, she said: “ I would say, not necessarily, unless the Secretariat and missions in the field come down harder on denigrators and abusers of women. And, as Louise Frechette (a former UN deputy Secretary-General) told me in an interview, only if member states chose the most competent, outstanding women when making nominations to fill appointments in the UN system. They should be the models”, she declared.

Reinforcing his arguments further, Ambassador Chowdhury said the political significance of this increase in the number of the women Ambassadors would be that their joint actions would draw more attention, bearing, of course, in mind that all Ambassadors to the UN act generally on the basis of instructions from their respective capitals.

“But, I believe, their coalition can join hands to focus on issues particularly those directly related to women’s empowerment and equality, like Goal 5 of SDG.”

They can also ask for greater engagement of Secretary-General’s leadership in the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on women and peace and security which has made the realization of women’s equal participation at all decision-making levels obligatory on all members of the United Nations and whose 20th anniversary is coming up in October 2020, he noted.

Realizing gender parity at the senior posts of the UN, both at headquarters and at field levels, could be another area for joint effort.

“Women Ambassadors could strategize to turn this newly gained numerical enhancement into an effective coalition to attain global objectives of women’s equality and empowerment,” he argued.

Apart from this increase in the number of women Ambassadors, another encouraging development had been that three consecutive women Ambassadors have been elected as President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2017 –from the Czech Republic, 2018, from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and 2019 from Norway.

This has improved somewhat ECOSOC’s dismal record of women Presidents, he said.

Since its beginning in 1946 and all the way upto 2003, ECOSOC’s practice of electing only men was challenged by Ambassador Marjatta Rassi of Finland as its first woman President, followed by second woman in 2009 before the successive three women Presidents – a total of 5 out of 74, said Ambassador Chowdhury.

“Given the unacceptably poor women’s representation as General Assembly and ECOSOC Presidents, women Ambassadors can continue their relentless efforts to improve gender parity in high offices,” he declared.

Meanwhile, addressing a working luncheon of the Circle of Women Ambassadors last April, the former President of the General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces said: “At the UN too – where we should be leading by example – only a quarter of Permanent Representatives are women. Only one of the General Assembly’s main committees is chaired by a woman. I hope that we, in this Circle, can encourage our colleagues to nominate more women to leadership positions in the General Assembly, and across the UN.”

In his annual report on “The Work of the Organization” released last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres claimed the world body continues to make significant progress towards gender parity.

For the first time in the history of the United Nations, “we have achieved gender parity in the Senior Management Group and among Resident Coordinators, and are almost at parity among the senior leadership ranks across the Organization, well ahead of my target date of 2021.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

Global Climate Change Investment Heavily Tilted Towards Mitigation and Low on Adaptation

A farmer tends to vegetables in a greenhouse in Antigua, where a climate-smart agricultural initiative seeks to improve farm productivity. Participants at the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Private Investment for Climate (GPIC) Conference heard that will climate change funding has increased, most of it is being spent on mutation and not adaptation projects like this. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Stella Paul
INCHEON, South Korea, Oct 8 2019 – Good news: the graph depicting climate investments has been steadily increasing. Climbing from the 2012 figure of $360 billion in climate investments across the world to close to $600 billion currently.

But despite the upward trend, its not even halfway to the $3trillion needed each year till 2030 to meet the development goals for capping global warming to 1.5 ° Celcius.

This was the broad picture that emerged on the first of the three-day Green Climate Fund (GCF) Private Investment for Climate (GPIC) Conference, which began on Monday, Oct. 7, in Incheon, South Korea. Attended by 600 people, including private investors, government officials and international finance experts from a diverse sector, this is the 2nd edition of the conference.

Addressing the conference at the opening ceremony, executive director of the GCF Yannick Glemarec said that the world needed to dramatically scale up adaptation and mitigation efforts and both of these had enormous investment opportunities. The conference, he reminded the attendees, was designed to act as an ideas marketplace to explore how to redirect the huge amount of funds held by large banks and other institutional investors into driving climate action in developing countries.

“Opportunities for private sector investment in energy in developing countries alone are estimated  more than $23 trillion from now to 2030. Today, the private sector manages more than $210 trillion in assets but invests only a very limited amount in climate finance due to severe market barriers,” Glemarec said.

At the conference, he hoped, the participants would be able to “reflect on these barriers and provide some actionable solutions”.

 

Barbara Buchner, Executive Director of the widely renowned Climate Finance programme at the Climate Policy Initiative, says global investment is heavily tilted towards mitigation and is low on adaptation. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Mitigation- Adaptation gap

Most of the current private investments are in climate mitigation sectors, such as e-transport and renewable energy. Adaptation projects around the world, including agriculture and land, still fail to attract private investments, they noticed.

“Globally, private investment is heavily tilted towards mitigation and is low on adaptation,” says Barbara Buchner, Executive Director of the widely renowned Climate Finance programme at the Climate Policy Initiative — a global policy think tank that works to improve energy and land use policies around the world.

  • According to Buchner, CPI has been tracking private investment in climate change since 2011 and right from the beginning, private investors have shown their preference for projects that cap carbon emissions such as renewable energy and transport projects, instead of forests or agriculture.
  • In 2016, the total climate finance in climate adaptation projects globally was $22 billion, while in mitigation projects it was $436 billion. Though investment has increased since then –the mitigation investments are now around $600 billion, Buchner reveals.

The reasons, she says, are many: lack of awareness and knowledge of climate risks, domestic policy and regulations that hinder mitigation, denied market access, social attitudes, multi-layer complexities of investing in adaptation projects on agriculture, water and land and a general lack of understanding in how such projects can result in profits.

“Mitigation projects, on the other hand, are more investment ready as the technology is already available and therefore one can just go and invest. The impact of the investments also are more direct and visible,” she said.

 

Yannick Glemarec (left), executive director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and Andrew Holness (right), prime minister of Jamaica, talk at the 2nd Private Investment for Climate Conference. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Leadership matters

While risks and a lack of attraction and understanding were more common barriers for private investment, a lot was also dependent on political leadership, said some experts.

For example, Africa needs infrastructure funding worth $130-170 billion a year, but government and public funding will alone will not be enough to meet this goal.

So, the region needs to attract private investment. However, at present, there are few business opportunities for the private investment, said Koffi Klaousse, project development director at Africa 50 – an infrastructure fund.

“We have numerous projects, but very few of them offered an actual investment and business opportunity for the private sector,” Klausse said, before emphasising that political leadership at the country level could change the scenario by making it more possible for private investors to play a significant role.

Earlier on the day, an example of positive leadership was also shared by Andrew Holness – prime minister of Jamaica – a country that has attracted nearly $1 billion worth of private investment. The only head of the state at the conference, Holness described how his government has been trying to interpret the climate threats as a great opportunity for private investment

“For us, climate change is a disaster. But if we embrace the challenge, it could also mean an opportunity,” said Holness.

“If weather is going to be more severe, then we must build more resilient and climate smart infrastructure and mobile more public and private resources to support the effort,” he said before asserting to attendees that Jamaica would continue to be “fiscally responsible” and  continue to reduce its debt burden to make itself more investment friendly.

In past decade alone, the country had been able to reduce its debt burden to 60 percent from over a 100 percent. And it is on track to meeting the goal of 50 percent of energy being produced by renewable sources.

The conference, which ends on Oct. 9, will continue discussions on a number of issues, including exploring how to shift the trillions of dollars held by institutional investors, how to tap climate bonds to fund climate-focused action, and expanding the role of financial innovation to boost climate investments in infrastructure, energy and land use.

Hollywood and Business Luminaries Spotlight World’s ‘Stateless’ Woes

Over a million Rohingya refugees are without a state as Myanmar refuses to recognise them as citizens. Pictured here is the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Credit: ASM Suza Uddin/IPS

By James Reinl
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 8 2019 – Movie star Cate Blanchett and businessman Richard Branson spoke up this week for the millions of people around the world who cannot get passports and other papers because they lack an official nationality.

The United Nations says the problem — known as “statelessness” — is getting worse, as a worldwide trend towards nationalism means governments are increasingly loath to help people viewed as unwelcome outsiders.

From the mostly-Muslim Rohingya people across Myanmar and Bangladesh to the masses of stateless folks in Côte d’Ivoire, Thailand, Latvia, Syria and Kuwait, Blanchett, Branson and others urged governments to tackle the problem.

“Statelessness has a devastating impact on millions of people around the world,” Blanchett, an Australian double Oscar-winner, told journalists on Monday during a week of intergovernmental talks in Geneva.

“They experience marginalisation and exclusion from cradle to grave … It’s total invisibility.”

By one count from 2017, some 70 countries reported on 3.9 million stateless individuals, but the U.N. agency for refugees, UNHCR, says the real figure globally is likely three times higher with some 12 million people impacted.

The world’s biggest stateless population are the Rohingya, hundreds of thousands of whom have sought safety in Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Myanmar, which does not recognise them as citizens.

“No one should have to suffer the indignity and exclusion that comes with being stateless,” Branson, a British billionaire wrote on Monday.

“Fortunately, over a hundred states have come together in Geneva this week to commit to do more to put an end to statelessness once and for all.”

 

 

The U.N. calls statelessness a “man-made problem” stemming from a “bewildering array of causes” — often legal directives and the re-drawing of national borders. Some 600,000 people remain stateless after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Stateless people are often denied certificates at birth and remain excluded for the rest of their lives, the U.N., says. They lack the papers for travel, marriage, work, schooling, healthcare, and opening bank accounts.

“Statelessness can deny people and communities their identity and sense of self, contributing to the breakdown of family and social relationships and creating legal problems for generations,” said U.N. deputy secretary-general Amina Mohammed. 

“And stateless people are voiceless people. Prevented from voting or participating in public life, they are without representation anywhere.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the decade-long “#IBelong” campaign was making gains towards ending statelessness by 2024, with more than 220,000 stateless people acquiring a nationality since 2014.

“This is an area in which – for relatively little investment – wide-reaching impact is within our reach,” said Grandi.

In July, Kyrgyzstan became the first country to officially end statelessness. The U.N. says Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan could also meet the 2024 deadline; while Thailand is boosting efforts on its 479,000 ethnic hill tribespeople and other stateless individuals.

Madagascar and Sierra Leone have rewritten their laws so that mothers can confer citizenship to their children, as fathers have long been able to do. Still, 25 nations do not readily grant mothers this right – one of the leading causes of statelessness globally. 

But Grandi also highlighted the Rohingya, and the Indian state of Assam, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has vowed to disenfranchise millions of Muslim immigrants amid a polarising election campaign.

“The progress is far from assured: damaging forms of nationalism, and the manipulation of anti-refugee and migrant sentiment – these are powerful currents internationally that risk putting progress into reverse,” said Grandi.

One Billion People Have Preventable Eye Conditions, Increasingly Linked to Lifestyle Choices, According to WHO

A child receives treatment in the northeastern district of Mymensingh, Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By External Source
GENEVA, Oct 8 2019 – A staggering 2.2 billion people already suffer from eye conditions and visual impairment today, but the global need for eye care is set to increase “dramatically”, with lack of exercise a key factor, the UN health agency said on Tuesday, unveiling its first ever report on vision across the world.

While welcoming recent successes in eliminating common conditions such as trachoma in eight countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted evidence indicating that eye problems are increasingly linked to lifestyle choices, including screen time.

Youngsters are among those at risk, WHO’s Dr Alarcos Cieza told journalists in Geneva:

“It is unacceptable that 65 million people are blind or have impaired sight when their vision could have been corrected overnight with a cataract operation, or that over 800 million struggle in everyday activities because they lack access to a pair of glasses”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

“In children, one of the factors that may influence the increased number of children with myopia, is that children do not spend enough time outdoors. It is a trend that is already observed in some countries like in China”, he said. “But of course, it is a trend that we can predict in other countries if they are an everyday habit, especially with child populations.”

 

Eye ‘never relaxes’ indoors

The problem with staying inside, is that the lens in your eye rarely relaxes, WHO’s Dr Stuart Keel explained.

“When you’re indoors, the lens inside your eyes is in a complete flex state, or it’s flexed but when you’re outside, it’s nice and relaxed.”

Pointing to recent scientific data from China investigating the “clear link” between time spent outdoors and the delayed onset of later-stage short-sightedness, Dr Keel cautioned that studies on “near-task” activities such as watching video on a tablet computer, were “not as conclusive at this stage”.

According to the WHO’s World Report On Vision, the burden of impairment tends to be greater in low and middle-income countries.

Women also suffer disproportionately, along with migrants, indigenous peoples, and those with disabilities and rural communities.

“Eye conditions and vision impairment are widespread, and far too often they still go untreated,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “It is unacceptable that 65 million people are blind or have impaired sight when their vision could have been corrected overnight with a cataract operation, or that over 800 million struggle in everyday activities because they lack access to a pair of glasses.”

Population growth and ageing – along with lifestyle changes and urbanization –  will also “dramatically increase” the number of people with eye conditions, vision impairment and blindness in the coming decades, WHO’s report shows.

One of the study’s main findings is that prevention is key, since at least one billion people are living with sight problems that could have been avoided with timely treatment.

Addressing this backlog of vision impairment or blindness owing to short and far-sightedness, and cataracts, will require $14.3 billion, the agency notes.

It points out that prevention is particularly important in low-income regions including western and eastern sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where blindness rates are on average eight times higher than in high-income nations.

The combination of a growing and ageing population will also “significantly” increase the total number of people with eye conditions, but this too could be turned around with preventative measures.

Typical conditions that could be treated if diagnosed early, include diabetic eye disease, along with cataracts and glaucoma.

“Vision impairment should not be seen as part of the ageing process,” Dr Cieza insisted, “because if you receive the appropriate care, for example, in the case of glaucoma, you can prevent the vision impairment associated with glaucoma, or if you receive cataract surgery, you can avoid the visual impairment associated with cataracts.”

 

High-quality eye care for all

Another key thrust of WHO’s report is that high-quality eye care should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their income and location.

To do this, treatment should be included in countries’ national health plans as an essential part of the overall aim of achieving effective universal health coverage, it says.

For the most part, eye conditions that can cause vision impairment and blindness –cataracts, trachoma and refractive error – are the main focus of national prevention strategies.

Nevertheless, other eye conditions that do not typically cause vision impairment – including dry eye and conjunctivitis – should not be overlooked, WHO says, noting that they “are frequently among the leading reasons for presentation to eye health care services all countries”.

This story was originally published by UN News