The European Coalition for Vision (ECV), is an alliance made up of professional bodies, patient groups, European NGOs, disabled people’s organisations and associations of health technology providers representing suppliers. The coalition exists to raise the profile of eye health and vision, help prevent avoidable visual impairment and secure an equal and inclusive society for those with irreversible blindness or low vision in Europe.

As stressed by Bob Chappell, Past President of the European Council of Optometry and Optics, "Europe is facing an invisible epidemic, with an estimated 20.4 million people in the whole of Europe suffering from serious vision impairment - including 2.3 million who are blind. Without adequate action, these worrying numbers will only increase with the rise of diabetes and the ageing population."

The aim of both meetings was to present the work of the ECV, including the ECV election manifesto and have a mutual exchange of views with EU officials.

Morning ECV visit at DG SANCO

Zoe Gray, Advocacy Manager for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness :

"For way too long eye health and vision has been neglected. For starters, it could begin promoting more accessible eye care for all and providing improved and timely rehabilitation services - measures that would go a long way to improve the lives of those at risk of and those with vision impairment."

In the morning, the ECV delegation visited the Directorate C (Public Health) and had a meeting with the Acting Director, John F. Ryan and representatives of the 4 Units of the directorate (C1 - Programme Management and Diseases, C2 - Health Information, C3 - Health Threats, C4 - Health Determinants)

The ECV delegation explained during the visit that according to available data, the main causes of moderate and severe visual impairment and of blindness in Europe are Cataract, Uncorrected Refractive Error, Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma and Diabetic Retinopathy. All five conditions are important in all countries of Europe and so public health efforts in Europe should focus upon prevention, as well as the early identification and treatment of these and other eye conditions.

The ECV delegation explained that as a global political commitment, in 2013, the WHA adopted a new global action plan for the prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment for the period 2014-2019, with targets and indicators aimed at significantly reducing avoidable blindness worldwide.

Some of the most serious conditions for sight loss fall within the scope of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Given the increasing priority made by governments and intergovernmental actors on NCDs, decisive action must be taken now to include eye health within NCD control and prevention. There are other relevant EU policies which tackle the proven risk factors of some causes of blindness, focusing on addictive and harmful substances and behaviours (smoking, alcohol) and others which encourage healthy lifestyles and behaviours (nutrition and obesity, sport and physical activity, active and healthy ageing). As people age they are more likely to experience refractive error and eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration. An estimated 4 in 10 people over the age of 70 have a disabling vision disorder.

The solutions require responding to these epidemiological, environmental and demographic challenges, including providing early screening and timely intervention, tackling health inequalities so that financial costs and other barriers do not impede access, and promoting eye health across the health continuum, from prevention to rehabilitation.

A number of professions are engaged in delivering eye health services across Europe, such as opticians, optometrists, ophthalmologists and allied ophthalmic personnel. It is important to note their crucial role since maintaining visual capacity enables people to enjoy a better quality of life.

Afternoon visit at EUROSTAT

Jean-Felix Biosse Duplan, President of Vision Impact Institute :

"Data collection is crucial to better appreciate the magnitude of the issue we face, as well as to develop more efficient solutions to it. Specific indicators should be coordinated and monitored by EU Member States so that EUROSTAT can deliver tangible, interlinked and clear data. This would also help assess results of public health policies to tackle eye health and vision impairment across Europe."

In the afternoon, the ECV delegation met with Eurostat officials who presented them with the current work of Eurostat relevant for eye health. The ECV delegation gave a presentation on vision and eye health explaining that two-thirds of visual impairment in Western Europe is avoidable - it can be treated and sight restored, but inadequate and inequitable services mean 8.5m people in Western Europe live with a disabling vision problem.

Taking the example of diabetes, 30 million diabetic patients in the EU may increase to 35 million by 2030. Moreover, 1 in 3 of diabetics has some form of Diabetic Retinopathy and 1 in 10 diabetics has a sight threatening version of it. The data clearly shows that no action is not an option anymore.

The ECV delegation emphasised for Eurostat that the European Coalition for Vision has come together to call on the European Union institutions to use their power and influence to support our work in addressing these challenges.

Visual impairment has a significant economic and social impact: eye health research is therefore crucial to measure that burden, so it is possible to adequately respond and tackle avoidable blindness by providing appropriate programming and policies to promote the inclusion and independence of people who have vision impairment: robust eye health data could re-shape the current set of European health indicators which for now exclude vision.

European Coalition for Vision (ECV) European Elections Manifesto 2014

"Europe is facing an invisible epidemic and we need your help."

ECV European Elections Manifesto 2014 : a call to action for Members of the European Parliament (MEP) :

  • ENCOURAGE the European Commission and EU Member States to prioritise vision and eye health as part of their public health strategies.
  • ADOPT an EP resolution to encourage Member States to ensure fair and equitable access to eye care, including free sight tests and treatment, for the most at risk and vulnerable groups (including those on low incomes).
  • ENSURE all relevant legislation and regulations improve access to and use of eye care services and promote an inclusive society that supports the rights and independence of blind and partially sighted people.
  • IMPROVE the consistency and standard of EU and Member State data collection on the status of vision and eye health and the inclusion of people with sight loss.

How to sign the ECV Manifesto?

Read the European Coalition for Vision (ECV) European Elections Manifesto 2014

Who can sign the election manifesto?

Current Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) standing for re-election, new MEP candidates and interested stakeholders, private persons and organisations who are committed to improve eye health throughout Europe and contribute to prevent avoidable vision impairment.

Interested in signing up to the ECV Manifesto?

You can sign up to the ECV Manifesto HERE.

- This report can be downloaded from HERE (pdf)

- The ECV presentation is available HERE (pdf)

Contact information

Zoe Gray, Advocacy Manager with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), at

  • Tel.: +442079588254

Follow ECV on Twitter at #ECVEyeHealthEU

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Last modified on April 19 2014.