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CEO eBulletin - December 2015

With focus on next year’s Federal Election, the Vision 2020 Australia team are ramping up instead of winding down. This eBulletin edition features updates of  ongoing projects, and the start of program and advocacy efforts for 2016. 

Message from Justin Mohamed

Justin Mohamed talks to camera

Table of Contents
A warm welcome to our new Directors

Successor sought for National Framework Implementation Plan

National Eye Health Survey on track for completion

One step closer to closing the gap but more to be done

Members keen to collaborate on global action

Vision Initiative earmarks four new Local Government Areas

Vision Summits planned as Federal Election preparation begins

Key dates for 2016

Christmas office closure

 

A warm welcome to our new Directors

I am pleased to welcome recently elected Directors, Jane Edge and Justin Mohamed, to the Vision 2020 Australia Board. Many of you will already know these two industry leaders, and I have no doubt that their appointments will bring greater diversity to our Board and ensure Vision 2020 Australia continues to be a truly representative peak body.

Jane is currently CEO of CBM Australia, has more than 20 years of experience in high-impact roles focused on supporting positive change and sustainable development, and is passionate about social justice.

Justin is CEO of Reconciliation Australia and has around 20 years’ experience working with Aboriginal communities, most recently as Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

I look forward to working with Jane and Justin and them sharing their knowledge and expertise in the eye health and vision care space.

Successor sought for National Framework Implementation Plan

As 2015 draws to a close, our focus has turned to our key priorities for 2016. Among these priorities will be working with the Australian Government to develop a successor to the Implementation Plan under the National Framework for Action to Promote Eye Health and Prevent Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss.

The catalyst for the National Framework Implementation Plan 2014-16 (NFIP) was the World Health Organisation’s Universal Eye Health: a Global Action Plan 2014-19 (Global Action Plan) which has set a target to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in the prevalence of avoidable vision impairment. With three years left to run on the plan, Australia now needs a new national Implementation Plan to help achieve the goals it has committed to under the Global Action Plan.   

The NFIP outlines Commonwealth responsibilities for eye health and vision care, nominating three key priority areas: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health; preventing eye disease associated with chronic conditions (particularly diabetes); and improving the evidence base. This marks a significant milestone towards establishing a national integrated plan for eye health and vision care. However, the current NFIP is limited to Commonwealth responsibilities and does not include the role of states and territories. Only through a truly national, cohesive implementation plan, outlining the responsibilities of the Commonwealth and all Australia’s states and territories, will effective and efficient service delivery be achieved resulting in the 25 per cent reduction in the prevalence of avoidable vision impairment.

National Eye Health Survey on track for completion

Sights are now firmly set on completing the National Eye Health Survey by June 2016 and the project is on track to meet this deadline.

Data collection in the remaining sites of South Australia, Victoria and Queensland will be completed by the end of this year and then the project team will move to Western Australia from January where recruitment and testing will take place across the final nine sites.

To date, 2,772 people have been recruited and tested from a total of 20 sites around Australia. The level of engagement from participants has been strong, with a response rate for the completed 20 sites at 79 per cent for non-Indigenous participants, and at more than 85 per cent for Indigenous participants, helped by a community-specific approach to recruitment.

The final report, which will be released mid-2016, will provide key data for the prevalence and causes of vision impairment that capture trends across metropolitan, regional and remote areas.

One step closer to closing the gap but more to be done

In September the Minister for Rural Health, Fiona Nash announced $6.63 million, which takes the total up to $8 million, for Indigenous eye health, recognising the importance of good vision for social, educational and employment participation of Indigenous Australians.

The funding came on the back of Vision 2020 Australia’s joint sector funding proposal that outlined eight key recommendations for closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health.

Aligned to the University of Melbourne’s Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision, the new funding will be used to improve eye care coordination, national oversight and trachoma health promotion activities over the next four years.

The funding is the result of much hard work from our members who came together on the consolidated proposal to improve eye health and vision care for Indigenous Australians. Without such collaboration, I am certain this significant result would not have been achieved.

But more work needs to be done. Looking to 2016, advocacy for the recommendations in the proposal that remain outstanding will continue. While the recent funding will inform the scope and quantum of the remaining recommendations, Vision 2020 Australia will seek a commitment for outreach optometry and ophthalmology services; on-the-ground service coordination; access to low-cost spectacles and ensuring equity of access to Medicare-funded optometry services.

Members keen to collaborate on global action

While the unprecedented cuts to Australia’s foreign aid budget have had a significant impact on the work of the Vision 2020 Australia Consortium and its members, there is a strong commitment to promote collaborative action and maintain some momentum toward meeting shared global goals.

A Global Workshop of Vision 2020 Australia members was convened in early December to identify clear areas of collaborative action that can maximise impact in this current fiscal environment. Working in partnership with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), Vision 2020 Australia will work to expand and strengthen collaboration among all stakeholders in the region, not just Australian NGOs. This includes other international NGOs, local in-country NGOs, the private sector, national governments and other potential donors.

Over the coming 12 months, collaborative activity will occur in three countries—Vietnam, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.

Vision Initiative earmarks four new Local Government Areas

Following the successful completion of the pilot program and with renewed funding, the Vision Initiative has earmarked four new Local Government Areas (LGAs) for the next phase of the program—Brimbank, Greater Dandenong, Campaspe and Swan Hill.

The Vision Initiative aims to enhance professional networks within the eye health sector by providing relevant training for GPs, practice nurses, pharmacists and Home and Community Care workers. Strengthened eye health awareness within the primary care model leads to improved referral pathways and greater prevention of vision loss and avoidable blindness.

The results from the evaluation of the pilot projects will be available shortly on the Vision Initiative website. They highlight that a grassroots approach to addressing eye health in local communities proved to be very effective.

Vision Summits planned as Federal Election preparation begins

As the sector prepares for the 2016 Federal Election, Vision 2020 Australia will again be hosting a series of Vision Summits with the Coalition Government, Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens to discuss the policies that will shape eye health and vision care.

The Vision Summits are a unique opportunity to meet with key Parliamentarians and provide input into the issues that matter to our sector.

Vision 2020 Australia is seeking Ministerial representation across health, disability, aged care and international development portfolios to participate in a panel-type discussion. Please note the following dates and locations:

  • Vision Summit with the Australian Labor Party
    Tuesday, 16 February 2016, 10.00am - 12.00pm, at Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Melbourne
  • Vision Summit with the Australian Greens
    Tuesday, 16 February 2016, 1.00pm - 3.00pm, at Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Melbourne
  • Vision Summit with the Coalition Government
    Thursday, 18 February 2016, 10.00am - 12.00pm, at Brien Holden Vision Institute, Sydney

Key dates for 2016

For more information on key dates for Vision 2020 Australia and the sector in 2016 download the calendar.

Christmas office closure

The Vision 2020 Australia office will close on 24 December and will reopen on 4 January 2016. On behalf of the team at Vision 2020 Australia and myself, I would like to wish you all a happy and safe festive season.

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