Chief Executive Officer
I write this from Geneva where the 2012 World Health Assembly (WHA) is in full swing. The Member States have just confirmed the decision to prepare a new Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment 2014 -2019. During the discussions 14 Member States, including Chile, Paraguay and Mexico from the Latin America region, spoke enthusiastically of the need for the new Plan and of the importance of eye health and eliminating avoidable blindness. The process to write the new Action Plan is also commencing – an expert drafting group will meet in early June and the “zero draft” will be posted on the WHO website for consultation in early July. Please do look for it and enter into the discussion around the content. The draft will then hopefully be discussed at forthcoming WHO regional meetings before a final draft is prepared to go through the WHO Executive Board in January 2013 and subsequently for adoption at the May 2013 WHA.
This new Action Plan will become the most important plan at the global level relating to eye health and VISION 2020. Hopefully it will benefit from the learning associated with the current WHO Action Plan 2009 – 2013 which has helped advocacy efforts and been helpful in bringing a sense of common purpose to elimination efforts but was massively overly optimistic especially given the resources available. But that is a universal problem with plans –most eye health plans that have been produced at global, regional and country levels have failed to be implemented to any significant extent. Stretch targets are good – but to be totally unrealistic when setting goals and targets leads to inefficiency, lack of direction and disillusionment. My main hope of the new Plan is that it will have a much smaller number of achievable and realistic objectives and clarity about resourcing.
In the final quarter of this year IAPB will also begin to produce a new organisational strategic plan to cover the 2013-2016 period. This will coincide with a new Presidency within IAPB and will be an opportunity to be clear about how our members want IAPB to add value to their own work and how IAPB will contribute to achieving the objectives of the new WHO Action Plan. IAPB too needs to be realistic in its aspirations whilst at the same time inspire all stakeholders in the belief that we really can achieve the elimination of avoidable blindness and that the rapid scaling up of known solutions is an imperative.
The new VISION 2020 Latin America Plan is a welcome addition to the stable of plans that exist at IAPB regional and global level. Hopefully time will prove that we have got the mix of realism with aspiration about right in Latin America, a region which has already achieved more than most in reducing the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment.
Finally let me state the obvious that anyPlan is just a means to an end and however good the Plan is what counts is how eye health services end up serving the needs of all of Society and particularly the poorest communities. I am looking forward to this time next year when the planning will be over and we can devote the rest of the decade to providing real services to real people.