Prevent Blindness, the oldest volunteer eye health and safety patient advocacy organization in the United States, recently held our 10th annual Focus on Eye Health National Summit. We initiated this event back in 2012 recognizing that while there were multiple conferences and gatherings to discuss the science and treatment of eye conditions, there was nothing that adequately highlighted the intersection of vision and population health.
The Focus on Eye Health Summit was launched 10 years ago as an in-person one-day event in Washington, D.C., gathering around 250 stakeholders annually. Now, the event (with the help of our recent compulsory reliance on technological advances) has evolved into a virtual, two-day international event. This year’s Summit, drew 1,300 registrants from all 50 states and U.S. territories as well as more than 60 countries across the globe.
Additionally, under this year’s theme of “Our Changing Vision,” celebrating a decade of advances and looking forward to the decade to come, this year’s Summit was supported by 28 partner sponsors, and included 19 sessions with 42 leading expert presenters (all of which can be found on the Summit website). It also provided attendees with opportunities to visit virtual exhibit booths, and chat with fellow attendees and presenters.
Michael F. Chiang, M.D., director of the U.S.’s National Eye Institute (NEI) at the National Institutes of Health kicked off the Summit as the keynote speaker with his presentation “Eliminating Blindness & Improving Quality of Life through Vision.” Amy Dixon, paralympic athlete and president of Glaucoma Eyes International, and Ross C. Brownson, PhD, Lipstein Distinguished Professor of Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis, served as keynote speakers the following day. Additional presentations included:
- “Vision Impairment and Blindness in the U.S.: New National State, and County-level Prevalence Data” (Elizabeth Lundeen, PhD, MPH, Vision Health Initiative, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and David B. Rein, PhD, MPA, NORC at the University of Chicago)
- “Oculomics: Ocular Biomarkers of Disease” (Steven M. Silverstein, PhD, University of Rochester Medical Center, and Siegfried Karl Wagner, MD, FRCOphth, University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital)
- “The Intersection of Vision Impairment and Mental Health” (Robin Casten, PhD, Thomas Jefferson University)
Moderated panel discussions included:
- “Myopia: A Global Health Challenge”
- “Inequities in Vision Population Health Research”
- “Barriers to Care in the Covid-era”
- “Social Determinants of Vision and Health as it Relates to Learning”
- “Emerging Telehealth and Artificial Intelligence Policy”
- “Improving Vision Health Equity through Workforce Diversity”
- “Aging Eye and Vision”
- “Innovations in Vision and Eye Health: Highlights from State-level Practices, Systems, and Policies”
- “The Importance of the Patient Advocate in Vision Health”
- “Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System: Using National, State, and County-level Prevalence Data.”
During the event, Prevent Blindness formally presented the 2021 Jenny Pomeroy Award for Excellence in Vision and Public Health to R.V. Paul Chan, MD, MSc, MBA, FACS, Professor and Head, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, the John H. Panton, MD Professor of Ophthalmology, Director, Pediatric Retina and ROP Service at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). And, Ms. Shervonne Poleon, Vision Science Graduate Program student, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), was presented with the second annual Rising Visionary Award.
While our mission is primarily U.S.-centric, Prevent Blindness is a proud long-time member of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. We support IAPB’s important work because we know that we all benefit from working together within and across countries, learning from and supporting one another’s efforts. To that end, I’m so pleased to see this growing platform serving as a distribution channel for emerging public health information and a gathering place for so many of us working to ensure all of us across this global community we share can live the highest quality of life possible, supported by public health systems that maximize our vision and eye health.
Copies of presentations and webinar recordings are now available on the Summit website.
We are already planning our 2022 Prevent Blindness Focus on Eye Health National Summit and are excited about the prospect of a hybrid event with both in-person and virtual opportunities. We invite everyone in the IAPB community, and beyond, to be a part of this special event as an attendee and/or sponsor. More to come! For more information, contact Nita Sinha, Director of Public Health at Prevent Blindness at [email protected].