Guest Post: The Focus on Eye Health Summit- Promoting Innovation and Collaboration
By: Kira Baldonado, MPH, Vice President of Public Health and Policy, Prevent Blindness
At Prevent Blindness, we often say that vision and eye health stands at the intersection of many issues- early childhood development, ability to learn, career opportunities and productivity, ability to maintain independence, lifelong health, and mental wellness. Vision health should be a component in each of these considerations- but for too long, vision health strategies, research, and innovations were only discussed in meetings of eye care professionals.
That is why Prevent Blindness established the Focus on Eye Health Summit in 2012, a free, annual event designed to bring together diverse professional and patient communities and stimulate conversations around the challenges to equitable access to eye care, explore new and unique collaborations across stakeholders, and identify opportunities to integrate vision and eye health into public health policies, practices, and research advancement.
The Focus on Eye Health Summit is held in a virtual platform, offering simultaneous access to expert presentations, an exhibitor hall, educational materials, videos, and toolkits, and in-platform opportunities for networking and collaboration for a global audience- bringing together hundreds of attendees from more than 40 countries. Summit participants include patient advocates, community-based and advocacy organizations, national vision and eye health organizations, clinicians, researchers, health care providers, educators, early childhood education professionals, senior- and child-care professionals, government agency staff, corporate partners, health program professionals, legislative staff, and more.
Presenters for the summit include world renowned experts, researchers, and patient advocates who, together, present the audience with current information, future innovations, and actions they can take to improve vision and eye health.
This year’s summit will occur on July 12 and 13, and carries the theme Why the Eye? Serving as a reminder to the audience that the eye exists at that intersection to so many issues and should be a consideration for health policy, community interventions, and economic considerations. The summit will kick-off on July 12, with keynote speaker Neil M. Bressler, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and editor-in-chief of JAMA Ophthalmology, with his presentation, “Advances in Eyecare and the Impact on the Patient.”
Additional presentations on day one of the Focus on Eye Health Summit will include:
- Making an Impact With the Stories We Tell
- Reimagining How We Engage Communities from Identification into Care – Children and Adults
- The 2023 Jenny Pomeroy Award for Excellence in Vision and Public Health, presented to Dean A. VanNasdale, OD, PhD, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Optometry
- The fourth annual Prevent Blindness Rising Visionary Award, presented to Christina Ambrosino, medical student at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
The second day of the Focus on Eye Health Summit, July 13, will be dedicated to mental health and vision. The Summit will begin with keynote speaker, Julian Eaton, BSc, MSc, MBBS, MRCPsych, Mental Health Director, CBM Global, Assistant Professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with his presentation, “Innovative Mental Health Approaches.” The session will address the importance of, and share actionable steps for, integrating mental health into the vision and eye health community.
Presentations following the keynote address will include:
- Forum on the Public Health Connection Between Mental Wellness and Vision
- Overview of Prevent Blindness Issue Brief – Vision Loss and Mental Health: Key Takeaways from an Interprofessional Task Force
- Provider Roundtable Discussion on Vision and Mental Health Strategies
- Patient perspectives on Mental Wellness and Vision
- Policy Opportunities and Obstacles Around Vision and Mental Wellness
Special thanks to the National Health Council’s Vice President of Policy, Jennifer Dexter, for moderating the Vision an Mental Wellness policy discussion.
A complete agenda, speaker bios, registration for the event, and a complete list of event sponsors can be found on the Focus on Eye Health Summit webpage.
The event strives to integrate the voice of individuals impacted by eye disorders and vision loss in all aspects- from the event presentations to the banner art for the event itself. The banner art features a painting by Lynn Zubal-Kozs titled Self Portrait. Lynn has Graves’ disease leading to eye bulging, irritation, and vision impairment, but her self-portrait, (created in the Prevent Blindness Art Therapy Program) includes a broader concept of her whole person- reminding us to consider who a person is completely in the context of their health.
This beautifully represents the holistic approach the Focus on Eye Health Summit brings to the issues of vision and eye health. No matter what profession or personal perspective you embrace, I invite you to join us for the Focus on Eye Health Summit and consider how a collaborative and innovative approach to eye health can advance your own goals.
Kira Baldonado, MPH is the Vice President of Public Health and Policy at Prevent Blindness, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit patient advocacy organization with the mission to prevent blindness and preserve sight. For more information, visit PreventBlindness.org.