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2021 in Review: Clarity and Persistence

Published: 23.11.2021
Babar Qureshi Vice President
IAPB
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I was honoured to become the Vice President of IAPB this year and have seen first-hand the exceptional progress the organisation has made in the last twelve months. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the effects of which continue to be felt around the world, IAPB’s key priorities of advocacy, knowledge sharing, and network strengthening have gathered pace and visibility.

The year kicked off in style with the official launch of the IAPB’s Vision Atlas and the Lancet Global Health Commission. The former is fast becoming a vital ‘living’ tool for those in the sector and has  recently added data on the global optometry workforce. The latter, which was largely coordinated by the organisation and contributed to by many of our members, has had a galvanising effect on those who work in eye health.

Two stand-out events in a year of great activity and endeavour were the World Health Assembly in May in which two ambitious targets were set for eye health, and then in July the very first United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Eye Health, the passing of which was marked by a giant screen in Times Square, New York. These outcomes have provided member organisations with the mandate to push further and harder with advocacy initiatives to ensure that the promises made in documents and in speeches bring about real change for the millions of people around the world who do not yet have access to the eye care they need.

IAPB have continued to build on what they do best, which is accruing and disseminating knowledge. Of particular note, along with a plethora of webinars both virtual and in person about Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy, Low Vison and IPEC to name but a few, has been this year’s Advocacy to Action series- a six-part learning programme designed to encourage advocacy and to teach all of us how to make change happen.

The role of eye health in climate change has had a timely focus with the launch of a handbook and the IAPB Climate Change Group continue to look at ways that we in the sector can both lessen the environmental impact of our interventions and how the problems created by our fast-changing environment affect delivery of the same.

We have also made a start in strengthening the links between underrepresented communities by creating the First Nations Special Interest Group, which was launched in Darwin in July to better represent the eye care needs of Indigenous Peoples.

I cannot end this piece without mentioning the extraordinary success of this year’s World Sight Day, which in the short time of its existence has gained huge impact and recognition. It was a source of great personal pleasure to me to see so many countries around the world participating in eye screenings and treatments- from Bondi Beach to Kilimanjaro, people demonstrated their willingness to spread the word on the importance of effective eye care. The initial target of a million eye tests to be conducted by the 14th of October was smashed by the amazing over three million final result.

My predecessor Victoria Sheffield spoke in her review of last year about the resilience of this organisation, I would echo that sentiment and add one of my own which is the clarity and persistence with which the IAPB continue to champion those in danger of being left behind. There is still much to do. I look forward to the year to come.