INTERNATIONAL AGENCY FOR THE PREVENTION OF BLINDNESS-IAPB ITALY
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness-IAPB was founded in 1975 as a Non Governmental Organization following a resolution of the WHO.
Two years later, IAPB Italy embarked on its activities in Rome: it was founded in 1977. The aim of IAPB is to promote and support a global campaign against all forms of avoidable blindness, with a specific effort towards communities without means.
Purpose and Functions of IAPB
The purpose of the Agency is to promote and sustain a global initiative towards eliminating all forms of avoidable blindness, and the provision of rehabilitative care within the scope of this initiative, with emphasis on the unfortunate poorer communities.
The functions of the Agency include the following:
- cooperation with the United Nations and its specialized agencies, particularly with the WHO Programme for the Prevention of Blindness and Deafness, with governments and with national and international organizations concerned in any way with blindness, and its prevention;
- develop an advocacy role in working with public health authorities in order to promote national prevention of blindness programmes and activities;
- promote the exchange of professional and technical information on all forms of avoidable blindness and visual impairment;
- assist and support the monitoring of the progress towards achieving the collectively expressed goals of the global initiative;
- help and support people living in developing countries, this effort aims to fight disease and prevent blindness.
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness-IAPB Italy was founded in 1977 on the initiative of the Italian Blind Union and the Italian Ophthalmological Society (SOI).
IAPB Italy was officially recognized by the Italian State by the law n. 284 (on 28th August 1997) – it is the non-profit private agency in Italy which aims, according to the law, to promote the prevention of blindness, ocular diseases, and the rehabilitation of the people affected by visual impairment. The work of IAPB is indispensable not only because visual handicap is increasing at an alarming rate, but also because there is widespread ignorance in the field of ocular disease prevention.
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness-IAPB Italy for the coordination of national and international activities is divided into the Board of Directors, the National Scientific Committee and the Board of Auditors, while locally it has its territorial branches, divided into Regional and Provincial Councils.
The work by which the Italian Agency accomplishes its institutional aims of prevention and rehabilitation of those who are affected by visual impairment is divided into various areas:
Programmes of sanitary education
Teaching young generations good sanitary behaviour to avoid the onset of visual troubles is one of the most important of IAPB Italy.
The campaign “Occhio ai bambini” (Watch for Children), which began on March 3rd 2008, continues in 2015 with its free eye check-ups to preschools and schoolchildren in many provinces throughout Italy through the use of a mobile ophthalmic unit. Ophthalmological check-ups involved children aged 3 to 11 years (extended): the prevention of eye diseases is essential to ensure a better quality of life.
The campaign “Apri gli Occhi!” (Open your eyes) was originally created as a master plan aimed at teaching the prevention of visual impairment, and it has become an effective didactic tool for schools. More than 500,000 children of 1,438 schools have been involved from 2005 to 2010 and in the schoolyear 2013-2014 (traditional version); later, from 2013 to 2017, a new multimedia version was adopted.
Campaigns of secondary prevention with the mobile ophthalmic units are set periodically. Priority has been given to all those patients who, because of cultural or economic reasons or sanitary disinformation, have never had the opportunity of having a complete ophthalmologic check-up. This was the presupposition for which the first mobile ophthalmic unit was set up in the past. Nowadays IAPB Italy manages, together with the Italian Blind Union, about 15 ophthalmic vans (see the picture on the right), which are used all year long by local organizations to carry out campaigns of prevention, mainly in districts and areas with particular need.
More than 20,000 people have made use of these mobile ophthalmic units allowing specialists to be able to discover pathologies without symptoms, thereby preventing otherwise irreversible damage.
Campaigns of social communication
The work of strategic importance, in which IAPB Italy is optimizing its resources, concerns communication. The advert “Vediamoci chiaro”, with the collaboration of the actor Bud Spencer, spread the social-sanitary message of IAPB-Italy and available services to a wider audience, in order to inform them about the risks connected with wrong sanitary behaviours.
Organization of seminars and conventions to spread the culture of prevention and visual rehabilitation of the people affected by visual impairment.
Production of popular material. Through the adoption of different communicative formats, IAPB Italy makes cartoons to educate young people about visual organs and prevention (“Vediamoci chiaro”), leaflets addressed to adults (“prevention enhances your life”, “glaucoma”, “low vision and visual rehabilitation”, “prevention of ocular diseases”, “diabetic retinopathy”, “dry eyes”, “keratoconus”, “cataracts”, “strabismus” ), dvds, posters, stickers and flysheets.
In order to guarantee correct information in the field of prevention and visual rehabilitation – as far as the Internet is concerned – IAPB-Italy has totally redesigned its website and made it accessible to people with visual impairment by using colour contrast. In our website you can find up-to-date news about the work of IAPB-Italy and about the services available (scientific information, prevention of the most common visual pathologies, map of the rehabilitation centres in Italy), and there is an interactive area in which you can ask the oculist questions and get ophthalmologic information.
Social Ophthalmology – Public Health Magazine
For more than thirty years, IAPB-Italy has published a scientific quarterly journal. One of its aims is to optimize research in the field of prevention, visual rehabilitation and the epidemic aspects of ophthalmology; but it is also intended for the layman.
Toll-free number calling from Italy (800 06 85 06).
Due to the need of informing citizens correctly in the ophthalmic field, a toll-free number for oculist questions was set up in Italy. Currently, the answering service is open every day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday (Italian time). This service has proved very useful to thousands of people who call every year for medical and scientific information on eye pathologies, the services of visual rehabilitation and the localization of public sanitary structures in which these services are available.
Interventions in developing countries-international work.
IAPB Italy, as well as supporting the programme VISION 2020: the Right to Sight (World Health Organization), aimed to fight all forms of curable blindness and directly intervened with its own projects in countries such as Ethiopia, Morocco and Burkina Faso.
Lack of access to safe, clean and adequate water supply is one of the main challenges facing the rural population in Ethiopia , in particular in a northern region called “Amhara”. IAPB Italy and other NGOs have joined forces to improve rural water supply, hygiene and sanitation. About 60,000 people were involved in awareness programmes and practices. In order to reach the objective of the programme, 113 water points were dug (hand wells).
IAPB Italy, through its Tuscan Regional Committee, has been in charge of implementing an ophthalmological support project in Burkina Faso (Africa). The missions of ophthalmologists and nurses take place since 2009, aimed at eliminating avoidable blindness. Thanks to the efforts made by IAPB Tuscany, an operating ophthalmology room was set up in the town of Léo and the necessary surgical equipment was purchased.
Morocco has strengthened its partnerships both with WHO and IAPB Italy. Trachoma prevention and control is included in the Ministry of Health’s national action plan. Morocco planned the consolidation of trachoma elimination by means of epidemiological surveillance.
On the whole, with the aim of optimizing its action plan to prevent avoidable blindness in the poor areas of the world, IAPB Italy has set up close relationships with the World Health Organization and the Non Governamental Organizations active in the field.
According to the WHO there are about 36 million blind people in the world, while around 217 million are affected by low vision; more than 80% of blindness is considered by WHO preventable or treatable. According to other global estimates, 1.383.922 visually impaired and 219.174 blind people live in Italy (i.e. 1.603.096 people have serious problems with their sight or they have experienced sight loss) (Source: iapb.org).
IAPB Italy, as a world directive member of the AMD Alliance International – union of the international organization which aims to promote the awareness of age-related macular degeneration –, has been committed to the prevention of this highly disabling pathology for many years, which is unfortunately becoming and more and more common.
In order to understand the causes of blindness better and remove the obstacles of the process of prevention, IAPB Italy has planned to carry out an epidemiological survey to make up for the chronic lack of valid scientific data, as reported by the World Health Organization.
The institution of awards for ophthalmologic students and residents, and post-doctoral fellowships, has shown how it is possible to get good results if the ophthalmologic world is encouraged to fulfil studies concerning the prevention of blindness and visual rehabilitation.
The leitmotiv which affects a lot of the Agency’s work can be traced back to the culture of prevention in the visual field and the effective recognition and integration of the person affected by visual impairment into society, through a series of interventions which can be repeated in time. The aim of this is to educate everyone – at any age from any social origin – to conceive prevention as a duty and as something of utmost importance.
Periodical campaigns against prevention
- World Sight Day: it is celebrated every year by IAPB with WHO in October (second Thursday);
- World glaucoma week: it is celebrated in march by IAPB and other organizations;
- Campaigns against diabetic retinopathy.
National Centre of Services and Research for the Prevention of Blindness and Rehabilitation of the Visually Impaired (Italy, Policlinico A. Gemelli in Rome). This centre was founded in Italy in 2007 by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness-IAPB Italy. Its main goals and activities are to assist the visually impaired with a multidisciplinary rehabilitation approach. Its main objectives are the following:
- offer rehabilitation services to low vision patients;
- carry out new research projects;
- improve the quality of prevention and training;
- promote national guidelines and standard procedures.
The World Health Organization has designated it as a WHO Collaborating Centre on Prevention of Blindness and Rehabilitation in 2013.
Diagnostic centre and visual rehabilitation for children with multi-sensory deficits, which was presented on December 13, 2012 at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, following an agreement between the latter Polyclinic (especially with the department of neuropsychiatry) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness-IAPB Italy. In environments dedicated families can deal with all the professionals needed to achieve optimal psychomotor development of their children. This approach can help improve the quality of life of both the newborns and their parents. The team includes child psychiatrists specialized in visual functions, ophthalmologists, neonatologists and experts in rehabilitation for low vision children. So, you can perform many tests in a short time, thus avoiding to infants and other children ’pilgrimages’ to uncoordinated specialists.
Telephone number: +39 06 36004929
Toll free numer (only calls from Italy): 800-068506 (from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Italian time, Monday to Friday).