2019 in Review: CEO Update

Chief Executive Officer
Organisation: The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness

Season's Greetings

2019 has been an incredibly active year for IAPB and the global eye care sector. Some of our highlights include:

  • The first ever mention of eye health at the UN in the declaration on Universal Health Coverage adopted by the UN General Assembly in September, thanks to the unstinting efforts of the UN Friends of Vision.
  • The launch of the Gender equity toolkit at the Council of Members in October, an exceptional example of how the Working groups can set the agenda and provide practical support and advice to members.
  • An eye screening event at the UN where IAPB members ran eye screenings for UN Ambassadors and staff members. The event proved to be a huge success, with over 500 people being screened, and really brought the issue of eye health to the forefront of many people’s minds.
  • The first “Focus On” week in March, focused on Glaucoma. We will run our next “Focus On” event early in 2020.
  • Over 300 people attending the Council of Members meeting in Dar es Salaam, and hearing an inspirational keynote address from Ambassador Aubrey Webson, chair of the UN Friends of Vision.
  • The launch of a set of core values to underpin IAPB membership and a pledge to feature at least 50% women as speakers at IAPB events
  • Thanks to the work we have done with our partners, eye health has successfully been included on the WHO Executive Board agenda at the next World Health Assembly.
  • Our summary of the World Report on Vision video has had 44,000 views on Facebook and 14,000 views on Twitter with engagement from over 120,000 people across our social media posts.

I am also delighted to welcome our new members who have joined IAPB in the last year – we continue to grow and now have 155 members worldwide – and the new members of the Secretariat team who joined us in 2019.

Of course, the most significant event for the eye care sector last year was the launch in October of the WHO World Report on Vision. The World Report on Vision really matters. It’s the first time WHO have published a World Report on Vision and reflects their commitment to the issue. It sets out in one place the full scope and magnitude of the problem – at least 2.2 billion people worldwide have a vision impairment and for at least a billion it could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed. The report provides the strategic framework to guide action on vision at national, regional and global level for the next decade. Its key message is that sustainable change will only happen when eye care is integrated globally into mainstream health services. Above all, it provides a critical opportunity to inform and persuade global leaders about the magnitude and unacceptability of vision loss worldwide.

2020 is a hugely significant year for the eye care sector. It is, of course, the culmination of VISION 2020 and we will be celebrating its achievements throughout the year. But even more importantly, it’s the start of a decade where can set a new agenda for eye health and successfully achieve the goal of integrating eye care as part of Universal Health Coverage. We have a programme of events throughout the year to do this:

  • A series of country launches of the World Report on Vision. Over the next 12 months we will work with IAPB members, partners and WHO to promote and incorporate the report’s recommendations by coordinating launches in over 50 countries. We have already launched the report at the UN, in partnership with the WHO and UN Friends of Vision, and had successful country launches in Australia and South Korea.
  • Supporting a resolution at the 2020 World Health Assembly in May, sponsored by Australia and Indonesia, to gain commitment from member states to implement the recommendations of the World Report on Vision.
  • Working with the Vision for the Commonwealth group, hold an event at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in June to build on their commitment to eye health at their last meeting in 2018, focused particularly on school eye health.
  • A series of events with UN Friends of Vision in New York to get eye health on the broader development agenda aiming for a resolution on eye health at the UN in the future.
  • The launch of the Lancet Commission on Global Eye Health.

We are planning a number of other initiatives in 2020 including publishing the second edition of the IAPB Vision Atlas, which will continue to be the most authoritative source of date on global health. We will also be launching new advocacy and knowledge hubs. These will provide members with the information and toolkits needed to help raise the profile of eye care.

And of course, the most important event in the IAPB calendar, the 2020 Global Assembly (GA2020) will take place in Singapore on with over 1,500 delegates expected to attend, the largest event on public health and eye health in the world. It will be an opportunity to celebrate VISION 2020 and, above all, set the agenda for the next 10 years. I hope to see you there.

Thank you for your friendship and support throughout 2019. I’d like to wish you all the very best for the season and the new year and look forward to working with you on transforming the eye health agenda in 2020.

Photo credit: Winter Landscape Vector Illustrations by Vecteezy.com, “SignPainter” Font by Fontspace.com