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Published: 05.11.2015

‘Working together’ wasn’t just a slogan emblazoned on the stage backdrop at the Beijing hotel hosting the 2015 Council of Members meetings. It was also the aim and ethos resonating through all the presentations and discussions which took place over five days this October in the Chinese capital.

Collaboration and partnership are obviously core values of IAPB and the Council of Members is the annual opportunity when member organisations can share and celebrate progress in our global campaign to eliminate avoidable blindness and visual impairment. It was also heartening though to witness how this annual members’ gathering has now become an effective platform for many members to explore innovative collaborations, launch call for new alliances and reinforce established partnerships. 

Both within the main programme of meetings, as well as in the many parallel events taking place on the back of it, the watch-word was ‘collaboration’. Among many examples:

Kovin Naidoo of the Brien Holden Vision Institute made an impassioned call for coming together to tackle the emerging myopic epidemic (particularly evident in China) and launched a new global community dedicated to effective, sustainable eye health initiatives for children and adolescents. This had followed an emotional commemoration of Brien Holden, an inspiration and generous promoter of many partnerships across the eye care world.

A number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) held meetings to discuss the development of a freely-downloadable app to support quality monitoring of cataract surgeries in low and middle income countries.

Delegates were given the opportuntity to test HelpMeSee’s prototype cataract surgery training simulator, a 3D virtual reality environment which aims to safely train in a variety of cataract surgery real-life scenarios.

Collaboration was the recurring theme also on the China-focused day of the Council meetings, with high-level representatives from the National Health and Family Planning Commission highlighting the role that NGOs and private hospitals now play alongside the traditional actors in China such as the Government and public hospitals (read full details on the China Day on Beibei Yi’s blog). Collaboration between the Chinese government, WHO and Lions was also at the core of recent assessments that had declared China free of Trachoma as a public health threat – achievement commended by the IAPB President at the meetings.

The Council meetings provided also the opportunity for IAPB, the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) and the International Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (IJCAHPO) to jointly endorse the Cambridge Declaration, a statement of intent agreed earlier in the year in the UK to ensure high quality capacity development and skills of eye care teams.

Collaboration not only within eye health but across the health and development sectors was also very much the key message that Johannes Trimmel and Zoe Gray stressed as they outlined the opportunities arising from the recently approved ‘Sustainable Development Goals’: only by working together within the broader development networks can we ensure eye care has entry points in the targets and indicators to monitor SDGs and only by connecting with national professional societies and disability groups we could put effective and coherent pressure on to countries as they develop SDG implementation plans.

Finally none of this would have been possible without the support and partnership from Bayer, the Council of Members’ sponsor, local partners from the China Committee, supporting the China Day, and the L’OCCITANE Foundation, which once again supported the Eye Health Leaders initiative – so thanks to all for the fantastic collaboration!