| An Exclusive Interview With Jeff Todd of Prevent Blindness|
In an exclusive interview with VMAIL, Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness, expanded on a variety of other issues including future initiatives and priorities for the organization, the planning process for the rebranding and how primary messages or programs will be changing this year in light of COVID-19.
VMAIL: Can you prioritize the organization’s activities and goals, especially in light of the crisis surrounding COVID-19?
Jeff Todd: We began our rebranding process over a year ago. We wanted to do a deep-dive into where we came from, where we are today, and where we want to be in the near and distant future. We assembled a volunteer committee to help guide us through the process and provide a strategy to reintroduce ourselves to our current supporters and consumers, as well as create new relationships. Founded in 1908, we have a long and rich past. While we embrace that, we are currently all about looking ahead to the future of eyecare and our role in it.
We are obviously in unprecedented times today with the Coronavirus pandemic. It has impacted every part of our lives across the globe. Today, we continue to work with our state affiliates and local partners to help those with vision issues who continue to struggle with access to care, affordable medication and more. That remains our top priority.
Although the timing of the launch is not ideal, we decided to move forward with our brand “refresh” to keep our mission moving forward. Part of our new launch is the debut of a new website at www.PreventBlindness.org—with a new logo and design. The website includes new features and education resources that are free to the public. We hope that everyone will find these useful to research vision topics and provide assistance and guidance to themselves and those who need it most.
Another priority for us is to continue to advocate at the federal level for support of vision issues. We are still contacting and meeting with government representatives to educate on why funding and rulemaking for vision and eye health programs and departments is essential to the health of our nation.
VMAIL: What are some of their major initiatives planned for this year. For example, what are you doing instead of the traditional summit event in Washington D.C. and the Eyes on Capitol Hill event, which usually takes place in the summer?
Jeff Todd: In addition to continuing to advance our education programs, early detection initiatives, and public policy work, both our Center for Vision and Population Health and our National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health will continue their work to advance systems change across the country that allows for improved attention to eyecare across multiple sectors. This year, we will also be launching a new patient engagement initiative that will allow us to tap into the power of the patient.
This year, the Focus on Eye Health National Summit will be held virtually on July 15. We have some exciting things planned, including a new virtual exhibit booth for our sponsors. We also have a great lineup of speakers from various vision and public health fields. We’ll be issuing more information soon regarding the agenda and registration.
Our Eyes On Capitol Hill advocacy day event was actually held earlier this year in February as away to ensure briefings with Congressional members and staff while they were in session. We plan to hold our next Eyes On Capitol Hill event in the February of 2021.
VMAIL: What are some messages about the organization that are important for providers to remember?
Jeff Todd: Prevent Blindness always has and always will be a public health patient advocacy organization. Our mission is to ensure that as many people living in our country as possible have access to equitable eyecare; and that they take advantage of that care. This mission simply cannot be delivered upon without the partnership of the provider community. We see our role as knocking down the barriers between the patient and the eyecare they need.
VMAIL: Can you tell us a little bit about the current Prevent Blindness board of directors?
Jeff Todd: Our all-volunteer national Board of Directors is made up of some of the finest leaders in the country. We have optometrists, ophthalmologists, educators, researchers and business professionals all bringing their personal and professional passions to bear for our sight-saving mission. It provides us with the unique opportunity to work together across industries and associations. And, we rely on their expertise and experience to guide us as we work across a wide breadth of eyecare issues.
VMAIL: How are the organization’s primary messages or programs changing this year, if at all, in light of the crisis?
Jeff Todd: At Prevent Blindness, our motto is “Our Vision is Vision.” It’s our singular focus. In many ways, our programs and messaging will always be the same: vision and eye health must be a priority for this nation—the current prevalence of vision problems and their cost to society demands it.
We know that vision loss from eye disease can be significantly lessened if detected and treated early. COVID-19 does not change that fact. However, its seemingly all-consuming nature does impact how we deliver our services. Similar to most other industries, we have had to adapt and will continue doing so throughout and on the other end of this pandemic. Remember, for many, access to eyecare was severely challenging pre-COVID. I suspect it will be even more so as our economy works to rebound. Thanks to the support of our many partners and donors, we will continue to be here as a resource for all those who need our help.