The Countess of Wessex helped launch a new award with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness last week, recognising the role that ‘eye health heroes’ play in continuing eye health.
The Eye Health Heroes Programme will become an “annual development programme to celebrate and nurture young and upcoming talent in the eye health sector,” with the goal to “provide a unique sector-wide opportunity to connect, develop and celebrate Eye Health Heroes from across the NGO, corporate, clinical and public policy, global eye health community,” according to the IAPB website.
Sophie joined in on a video call last week with past winners to hear how it benefitted their careers and also to learn more about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their work.
Sophie has been a Global Ambassador of the IAPB since 2003 and said: “The COVID-19 outbreak presents us with the danger of losing ground on hard-won progress in eye care delivery. There is also a real concern that vulnerable communities will have less access to care because of COVID-19. And yet, after speaking to the Eye Health Heroes, it’s clear there is still potential to learn from the situation and improve eye care globally. We need to see more such amazing people.”
When told by the award winners that handwashing posters have become so commonplace and that they’d like to add face-washing awareness and areas in schools, Sophie replied, “That’s absolutely valid because certainly in the countries I’ve visited I’ve seen so many issues being caused by lack of hygiene and of course, when there are programs that have combined with other organisations, the effect it has on the reduction of some of these eye diseases is dramatic.
“It’s an incredible valid point that hopefully with these simple measures, in another 10-15 years time, it’ll be interesting to see the figures of how much impact these measures may have had on the ground.
“Simple stuff like this right now you take for granted. We’re concentrating on a virus, but actually this is actually going to have a good effect for other reasons on things like eye conditions, which is a positive.”
This year’s Eye Health Heroes will be nominated into three categories: Leaders, Change makers and Innovators; the awards will be presented in October.