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White Paper on Blindness to launch in EP

Publication date: 04.10.2017

Brussels, October 4th, 2017: A White Paper on blindness, entitled ‘Eyes Right: Preventable Blindness’ is set to be launched in the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, 11 October.

The launch will be augmented by a workshop one-day ahead of this year’s World Sight Day on 12 October, held under the banner ‘Make Vision Count’. This is an annual day of awareness to focus global attention on blindness, visual impairment and rehabilitation of the visually impaired, and was first held in 1998.  Please see the agenda. 

Key decision makers, policymakers, government officials, patients, partners/donors and the wider health community participate in World Sight Day, with annual events taking place all over the globe. 

The high-level workshop, meanwhile, will highlight that eye disease and its prevention is a major issue in Europe today and will only become bigger as the 500-million-plus population ages (and the incidence of, for example, diabetes grows).

There are some 39 million blind people in the world, but 80 per cent of blindness can be cured or prevented.

To support common effort on behalf of all stakeholders in this area, the White Paper, agreed by consensus, will explain the need for, among other things, a more preventative approach to blindness across the EU’s Member States.

The authors of the White Paper believe that the battle against eye disease in Europe needs to be fought at EU level. Studies suggest that eye disease costs society in Europe some €20 billion, causing a significant economic burden. 

Much of these costs are due to day-to-day care for the blind by relatives and friends. This, therefore, has an impact on society as a whole, not just on the sufferer.

Organisations working in the area, such as the European Forum Against Blindness (EFAB), have highlighted the fact that investment in screening programmes, earlier (and better) diagnoses and adequate treatment of retinal conditions, can lower the economic burden and bring about improved quality of life, and therefore a more productive population. 

MEP Cristian Silviu Bușoi will host the workshop and will be joined by fellow MEPs Alojz Peterle,  Marian Harkin, and Soledad Cabezon Ruiz. 

Ian Banks, the chair of EFAB, alongside European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) executive director Denis Horgan, will give an overview of the White Paper, before the MEPs take part in a stakeholder discussion.

Among topics covered during the workshop will be the aforementioned diabetes and eye problems, easing access to prevention and innovative treatments, and including patients in preventable blindness policy formation. Also on the table will be the need to promote research into blindness.

Presentations will be followed by a question and answer session covering necessary action to make the ideas in the White Paper a reality.

EAPM’s Denis Horgan said ahead of the event: “It is clear that in most areas of healthcare, preventative measures need to be boosted across Europe, whether through better information for patients, bigger screening programmes and improved diagnostic tools that are available to all citizens regardless of where they live and their financial status.

“Without screening and early detection of preventable eye diseases, leading in the worst-case scenario to blindness, much of the incredible medical science being developed will struggle to fulfil all of its potential when it comes to improving the quality of lives of all of our citizens, now and for generations to come.”

Author: Denis Horgan
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