European Coalition for Vision Calls For Europe’s Parliament To Improve Lives of Those With Vision Impairment

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STRASBOURG—The European Coalition for Vision (ECV) and the Coalition’s manifesto for the European Parliament elections were launched Feb. 7 at the European Parliament seat in Strasbourg. The manifesto, presented in an event hosted by the Marian Harkin, member of the European Parliament (MEP), calls on the European Parliament “to use its significant powers to improve the lives of people affected by vision impairment or at risk of vision loss.”

The European Coalition for Vision (ECV) is an alliance made up of professional bodies, patient groups, European NGOs, disabled people's organizations and trade associations representing suppliers. The coalition exists to raise the profile of eye health and vision, help prevent avoidable visual impairment and secure an equal and inclusive society for those with irreversible blindness or low vision in Europe.

“Brussels can do a better job when it comes to encouraging European Union (EU) Member States to prioritize vision and eye health within their health strategies, an area largely neglected by most European governments,” said Peter Ackland, chief executive officer of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

Europe, the group pointed out, is facing an invisible epidemic, with 25 million Europeans suffering from serious vision impairment, including 2.7 million who are blind. Since an estimated two-thirds of these cases could be treated or prevented, the hefty burden that vision impairment imposes on affected individuals, their families, EU Member States and the EU as a whole could be alleviated with the right measures in place, the group said. The main causes of visual impairment in Europe are uncorrected refractive error (48 percent), cataract (13 percent) and macular degeneration (6 percent), which can affect people from childhood to old age.

Lower rates of vision impairment and blindness will help EU Member States make considerable healthcare savings. In addition, better vision and eye health will not only greatly improve the lives of the people affected – it would also yield major productivity gains across sectors, the Coalition said. “Both today’s rise in diabetes and an aging Europe threaten to increase the numbers of avoidably vision impaired and blind persons. There is an urgent need to address the gaps in eye health provision in Europe, and to promote the rights of the blind and partially sighted so that they can live a life of equal opportunities within a socially inclusive Europe,” said MEP Marian Harkin.

In May 2013 the World Health Assembly adopted Resolution 66.4 which included the global Action Plan "Universal Eye Health- a global Action Plan 2014 -2019."  It is now of paramount importance that the 28 Member States of the EU each develop country specific plans to achieve implementation of the Plan.

More details on the initiative of the European Coalition for Vision is available from Zoe Gray, advocacy manager with the IAPB at zgray@iapb.org or Tel.: +442079588254.