Paris 2014

Sharing, informing and celebrating

Over 140 delegates representing 70 organisations from 40 countries gathered last week in Paris for the IAPB Council of Members 2014, co-hosted by l’Organisation pour la prévention de la cécité (OPC). The numbers demonstrate the remarkable success of the Council meetings, which are fast becoming the key annual gathering for civil society, academia and corporations concerned with eye health and prevention of blindness.

Two days of inspiring sessions – Day 1

IAPB’s CEO, Peter Ackland, chaired a workshop on ‘Universal Eye Health: A Global Action Plan 2014-2019’ (GAP) highlighting successes and noting barriers to its implementation. Ivo Kocur of the World Health Organization praised the partnership with IAPB as a key factor in the success of recently held regional planning meetings. He noted that, by bringing together representatives of the Ministries of Health and various National Eye Health Coordinators and enabling them to connect, share experiences and overcome isolation, the regional meetings acted as powerful springboard for GAP’s national implementation.

Ronnie Graham of IAPB Africa highlighted the considerable challenges of implementing GAP in Africa; Mansur Rabiu, IAPB-EMR presented the progress made in the Eastern Mediterranean and Juan Batlle, IAPB Regional Chair for Latin America, talked about 12 major barriers to universal eye health in Latin America.

Jennifer Gersbeck of Vision 2020 Australia delivered an inspiring lesson in advocacy detailing their success in winning the trust of the Australian Government, including its commitment of funding a major national prevalence survey; while Sailesh Kumar Mishra, Programme Director at Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh, talked about their internationally recognised eye care programme in Nepal (winner of the coveted 2013 Champalimaud Vision Award).

Presentations from the International Diabetes Federation and the World Diabetes Foundation helped set the scene for the next workshop: diabetic retinopathy (DR).

Successive presentations from WHO, on a tool for the assessment of diabetes and DR management systems, the Lions Clubs International Foundation, on its DR related grants, and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, on its commitment to fund projects to develop innovative DR programmes in South Asia, the Western Pacific and possibly the Caribbean, highlighted some of the efforts being made.

Bill Felch of the International Council of Ophthalmology and Bina Patel of the World Council of Optometry also took to the stage to highlight the roles that ophthalmology and optometry can play within a multi-disciplinary approach to combat DR.

Lesley Podesta of The Fred Hollows Foundation and Nick Kourgialis of Helen Keller International, co-chairs of the IAPB DR Work Group, concluded the session with an impassioned call to all organisations present to join a global coalition of agencies from across the eye care and diabetes sectors to halt the growing epidemic.

Francophone Africa is falling behind both for the broader health and also eye health workforce requirements in Africa, reported Ronnie Graham of IAPB Africa, together with Joseph Oye and Senanu Quacoe, IAPB Co-Chairs for Central and West Africa, in the last workshop. Chairing the session, Serge Resnikoff, President of OPC, highlighted many telling statistics: overall overseas development assistance in health, for example, was 10 times less in Francophone compared to Anglophone Africa.

However, joint efforts on the ground could help revert the trend: Tamer Makary of the Magrabi Foundation presented progress on the development of Central Africa’s first non‐profit subspecialty eye hospital and training institute, being built in Cameroon thanks to the joint efforts of the Magrabi Foundation and the International Council of Ophthalmology, with support from international NGOs, and pharmaceutical companies.

Fittingly, Light for the World and OPC, while presenting their respective strategies and projects in Francophone Africa, made a strong call for other agencies to join them and help reverse the trend that for too long had penalised eye care provision in French-speaking countries in Africa.

Day 2

Peter Ackland delivered his CEO report to Council highlighting key achievements including the $76 million Seeing is Believing fundraising milestone; key messages from the latest Global Burden of Disease data; continuing efforts to maximise opportunities for eye care in the Post-2015 development agenda, and activities towards the implementation of GAP, as well as priorities for the future.

This was followed by a ‘knowledge sharing platform’, a line-up of short, dynamic presentations created by members for members aimed at informing, provoking and inspiring: Joan Brown, Orbis on the potential of telemedicine with Cybersight; Babar Qureshi, CBM invited us to embrace a broader inclusive approach for our eye health programmes; Victoria Sheffield presented the International Eye Foundation’s efforts in building a global movement for sustainable eye care; Lesley Podesta, the Fred Hollows Foundation gave an inspiring call to stop the under-representation of women in the sector and for all organisations to better diversify our practices; and finally Rupert Bourne and Nathan Congdon highlighted once more the importance of comprehensive and reliable data, respectively presenting progress on a global vision database and efforts to standardise measures of cataract surgical outcomes.

The Council meeting also saw the culmination of a year-long membership and governance review led by the independent consultant Richard Bennett. His proposals for change, which had been discussed and broadly endorsed by the Board, were unanimously approved by the Council: key changes include the introduction of the opportunity for all members, regardless of membership category, to elect and stand for 8 seats on the IAPB Board, as well as clearer ways to get involved in the delivery of our strategy. Click here for a summary of the changes, with all implications and opportunities for members.

Details of future events were also announced, with the 2015 Council of Members scheduled to take place in China in October (location and date to be confirmed soon), and work already well under way for the 10th General Assembly, 18-20 September 2016 in Durban (download the save the date slide to use in your meetings and presentations).

The conference ended on a celebratory note, with the 2014 Eye Health Leaders taking to the stage to receive their certificate of recognition for their innovative contributions to eye care. The initiative, once again enthusiastically supported by the L’OCCITANE Foundation, was another success, with 15 individuals nominated by the membership and 8 able to attend the Paris meetings.

In the introduction to the initiative, Dr. Paté Sankara, an ophthalmologist working in the Central/West region of Burkina Faso and nominated by Helen Keller International as its eye health leader, conveyed to the all organisations present a message of thanks from one of his patients grateful to all the work that had helped save his sight. A powerful reminder of how connections, learning and collaborations borne out in a hotel meeting room in Paris, could have lasting impact on the ground on the lives of those most in need.

See you in China!

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