This month marks the first year of operation for the Prevention and Early Intervention Committee (PEIC) which met in December 2011 to respond to the Flexible Fund consultation process. Over the year the primary focus of this policy area has been advocacy around the development of a plan to implement the National Framework for Action to Promote Eye Health and Prevent Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss (National Framework).
The intent of the National Framework Implementation Plan (Implementation Plan) is to identify a series of measurable actions to ensure Australia’s strategic focus on eye health and vision care is aligned with its international obligations. Another advocacy push has been around the inclusion of greater linkages with low vision and rehabilitation as this focus was excluded from the National Framework, owing to the strict interpretation of the 2003 World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution ‘elimination of avoidable blindness’.
The Health Minister pledged her support for the development of a National Framework Implementation Plan at the CEO Briefing on 19 July 2012 and recently asked the Department of Health and Ageing to commence consultation around the development of the plan. This can now proceed following the endorsement by the Standing Council on Health of the second Progress Report against the National Framework. It is anticipated that a consultation workshop for the sector will be held in February 2013 bringing all national policy areas together with Australian Government representatives to discuss the findings, identify any gaps and determine measurable actions.
The PEIC met on 31 October to determine what the structure and format of the implementation plan should look like and how this should be linked with the revised World Health Organisation Global Action Plan which will go to the WHA in May 2013.
As with other policy committees, an Advocacy Platform has been established which provides the policy context for this area. It has started to identify where eye health links with the health reforms, one of the national objectives for prevention and early intervention. An Action Plan has also been developed which identifies a number of actions to support the achievement of the new national objectives for Strategic Goal 1 from Vision 2020 Australia’s Strategic Plan.
Two working groups have been established. One will develop a strategy to engage Medicare Locals to ensure eye health is represented in population health planning and another to progress the development of eye health indicators, to be embedded in the Implementation Plan. Membership of the latter will be cross-portfolio to ensure low vision and rehabilitation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health is represented.
The primary challenge moving forward is the development of the Implementation Plan and ensuring support and funding is secured through the development of a pre-election policy proposal for submission to the Australian Government and Opposition early in 2013.