Several Australians have been recognised for their contributions to global eye health during the past two decades as part of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB)’s Vision 2020 agenda.
Prominent figures such as Sight For All founders Dr James Muecke (2020 Australian of the Year) and Professor Robert Casson, the late Professor Brien Holden and Indigenous eye health leader Professor Hugh Taylor were among recipients of Vision Excellence Awards, announced last month.
The awards are the culmination of individual efforts towards the ‘Vision 2020: The Right to Sight’ initiative, launched in 1999 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the IAPB to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020. With the program over, the accolades acknowledge people who contributed significantly during the program’s 20-year journey.
The awards attracted more than 100 nominees from across the world. Among other achievements, Adelaide-based Muecke and Casson were nominated for their work with Sight For All, a social impact charity delivering eye health projects where they are most needed throughout Australia and Asia.
Holden, the founder-CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) and a Professor at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW, was posthumously hailed as the most influential optometrist of his generation, instrumental in ensuring Vision 2020 was more inclusive and grounded in evidence.
Taylor, who heads the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne, was recognised for multiple contributions, including his role helping to design the Vision 2020 program and attending its launch in Geneva and Beijing in 1999.
The Fred Hollows Foundation also featured prominently in the Vision Excellence Awards. The organisation’s three recipients were Ms Anaseini Cama, the Pacific trachoma co-ordinator, Ms Virginia Sarah, global partnership executive, and Ms Jennifer Gersbeck, the foundation’s executive director of global advocacy, as well as the former CEO responsible for transforming Vision 2020 Australia into a highly respected body.
Another local recipient was Ms Gillian Cochrane from BHVI. She’s also a Fellow of the Australian College of Optometry, recognised for her public health work in Anglophone sub-Saharan Africa and commitment to Vision 2020.
Dr Jill Keeffe, a technical advisor to the Lions Club International Foundation also featured. At the Centre for Eye Research Australia, she rose to head the Public Health Unit and became director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Prevention of Blindness. There she helped develop and publish the Low Vision Kit, a tool to provide simple but accurate assessment of visual acuity and functional vision, easily employed by community health workers and teachers.