Attending the First National Eye Health Conference in China

Regional Program Manager, Western Pacific
Organisation: International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness

Participants at the 1st National Eye Health ConferenceAs the rain pelted down in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province, there was much joking amongst the international participants that this was a ploy by the organisers to keep us in China. After-all, it’s well-known that Shanxi is hot and dry in the summer! But the plummeting temperature outside was a stark contrast to the warmth of the welcome accorded us by the organisers and Chinese delegates inside the convention centre – a welcome so warm that many of us wouldn’t have minded a few extra days in China at all!

Under three hours by fast train from Beijing, Taiyuan has been the hub for the Shanxi CHEER project a collaboration between IAPB members, led by Orbis and including the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Helen Keller International and Perkins. This Seeing is Believing (SiB) funded initiative has been a model of inter-sector engagement between the NGO sector and the Ministries of Health and Education, so Taiyuan was a fitting location for the conference.

Delegates were impressed by the scope and breadth of projects being undertaken, and the leading example of China as a country which has tackled eye health issues for decades. Indeed, there was much discussion around China’s 13th Five Year Plan, a number indicative of this 65 year old dedication to addressing avoidable blindness. International participants were particularly interested to see the evolution of strategy in China, for example a greater emphasis on infectious disease control in hospitals and eye health as part of China’s Belt & Road international engagement.

All in all a dynamic weekend, with congratulations to the organisers, the National Institute of Hospital Administration and the principal partner, Orbis. IAPB was proud to be a funding supporter and we look forward to the 2nd NEHC. And a little more sunshine

The conference was held on August 25th.

Also read: China: 5-year National Plan for Eye Health adopted