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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
9-Mar-2014

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Contact: Katie Steels
press@lshtm.ac.uk
44-020-792-92802
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
www.twitter.com/lshtmpress

Eye health experts come together to boost fight against avoidable blindness

Commonwealth Day 2014: Eye health experts across the Commonwealth join forces to combat avoidable blindness, thanks to major new grant from The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust

A new 7.1 million grant will enable experts from a range of institutions to come together for the first time as the Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium, coordinated by the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The Consortium will pursue vital research into conditions such as diabetic retinopathy which leave millions without sight, and will build capacity across the Commonwealth to tackle avoidable blindness and provide quality care to those affected or at risk.

Worldwide there are 285 million visually impaired people, of whom 39 million are blind. Yet 80% of blindness and visual impairment is curable or treatable.

Good quality eye care is a scarce resource for millions of people across the globe, including in many Commonwealth countries.

Announced on Commonwealth Day 2014, the grant by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust will support the newly created Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium to deliver an integrated programme of fellowships, research and technology.

The Consortium's highly respected eye health organisations and academic institutions will work together to deliver the programme, which will help strengthen health systems to prevent blindness and make high quality eye care available to all.

The programme delivered by the Consortium will support:

People: strengthening capacity to deliver eye care, through training and information sharing, including Public Health for Eye Care Fellowships, Masters courses, clinical fellowships and a Commonwealth-wide diabetic retinopathy team training network;

Knowledge: deepening understanding of avoidable blindness and approaches to tackling it, through research fellowships;

Tools: development and roll out of technology such as the Portable Eye Examination Kit (Peek) system which will help identify and diagnose eye problems in any setting using only a smartphone; and OpenEyes, an electronic patient record system to replace inefficient and unreliable paper systems. These have the potential to bring about a revolution in affordable eye care.

Sir John Major, Chairman of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, said: "I am delighted that The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is able to fund this important programme. With the invaluable and diverse talents of so many specialists from all around the Commonwealth we can, together, lead the fight against avoidable blindness worldwide."

Dr Matthew Burton, ophthalmologist and senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "We are incredibly pleased to be working with The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. Blindness is devastating for millions of people yet so much of it could be cured or prevented. This funding will enable organisations and individuals to team up through the Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium and overcome some of the obstacles blocking access to eye care."

Colin Cook, Head of the Division of Ophthalmology of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, said: "We are very grateful to The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust for its support towards eye care and the elimination of avoidable blindness in the Commonwealth. The African saying is "How do you eat an elephant?" to which the answer is "one mouthful at a time, piece by piece, and with a lot of help from your friends." This initiative is a wonderful illustration of this teamwork, and we are grateful for the opportunity to participate as members of that team."

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Notes to editors:

For more information or to request interviews with Dr Matthew Burton, please contact the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Press Office on 020 7927 2802 or press@lshtm.ac.uk.

For further information about The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, please contact Effie Blythe on 07792 705384 or effie.blythe@qejubileetrust.org

About The Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium

The Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium is a group of regional eye-health organisations, training and academic institutions from several Commonwealth countries, which brings together a range of complementary skills and capacity to deliver an integrated 5-year programme of fellowships, research and technology. Funded by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, and co-ordinated by the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, it aims to achieve a major long-term impact in strengthening eye health systems and improve quality of eye care for many people throughout the Commonwealth. Its members are:

International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH) at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
College of Ophthalmology of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (COECSA)
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO)
Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth)
West African College of Surgeons (WACS)
Aravind Eye Hospital (AEH)
University of Cape Town (UCT)
Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA)
Moorfields Eye Hospital (MEH)
LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVP)
Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC)

Website: http://cehc.lshtm.ac.uk/ (TO GO LIVE ON 10 MARCH 2014)

About The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is a charitable foundation established in 2012 to mark and celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth. The Trust has received donations from governments, corporate partners, trusts, foundations, community groups and individuals from across the Commonwealth. Its mission is to enrich the lives of people from all backgrounds within the Commonwealth, and its programmes work in alliance towards eliminating avoidable blindness and to empower a new generation of young leaders. With a five-year timeframe in which to deliver successful programmes, the Trust's aim is to leave a lasting legacy, owned by the whole Commonwealth, to honour Her Majesty The Queen. http://www.jubileetribute.org

About the International Centre for Eye Health

The International Centre for Eye Health's (ICEH) mission is to improve eye health worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in eye health research, education and translation of knowledge, with a focus on low and middle income countries. It aims to do this through the development of policy; providing evidence for programme planning and advocacy; sensitising key stake holders and professionals; developing and building capacity through our links programme; working with and supporting young researchers and developing partnerships for research and by training leaders in the prevention of blindness. www.iceh.org.uk/display/WEB/Home

About the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and postgraduate education in public and global health, with 3,900 students and more than 1,000 staff working in over 100 countries. The School is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, and was recently cited as the world's leading research-focused graduate school. Its mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice. http://www.lshtm.ac.uk



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