Research to Prevent Blindness

Working Together to Fund Scientific Research for Eye Health

On April 24, Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) and more than 30 other organizations (see full list below) convened in Washington DC for "Vision Research Funding Partnership IV: Shaping Eye Health in America." This high-level meeting brought together leaders of organizations that fund vision research and provide related services to think collectively about how to best support scientific research related to eye health and maximize the impact of private funding in this area.

The event was hosted by RPB and cosponsored by the Glaucoma Research Foundation, E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation, Eyesight Foundation of Alabama, International Retinal Research Foundation, Macula Vision Research Foundation, and Prevent Blindness.

"Vision research funders have a critical role to play in supporting the science that ultimately leads to treatments, preventives and cures for vision loss and eye diseases," said Brian Hofland, PhD, President of Research to Prevent Blindness. "Participants at this event, many of whom have participated in previous years' convenings and a few of whom we welcomed for the first time, recognize this important role and know that by working together, we can maximize both individual organizational impact, as well as collective progress toward our goals."

The day included:

  • expert perspectives on the outlook for federal research funding from James Jorkasky, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research /Alliance for Eye and Vision Research and Emily Holubowich, Senior Vice President of CRD Associates;
  • updates from the National Eye Institute (NEI) on current and future activities from NEI Director Paul Sieving, MD, PhD, and
  • a recap of the latest research on the eye-brain connection from Michael Crair, PhD, William Ziegler III Professor at Yale University and Board Chair of the E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind.

Given the recent focus on taking a population health approach to vision (discussed at length in a recent landmark report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, or NASEM), Marian Salzman, CEO of North America and Chairman of the Global Collective at Havas PR, gave a dynamic presentation on "Making Vision a Household Priority: Lessons from a PR Pro."

Ms. Salzman stressed the ability of public health awareness campaigns to make a significant difference in behavior across generations (think of now-classic campaigns like Smokey the Bear and "This is your brain on drugs" that had measurable impact), but also emphasized the critical need to adapt messaging to new audiences and new ways of media consumption. Using many current examples, Ms. Salzman showed participants the power of using data to understand your audience, focusing on one bold message, and creating opportunities for your audience to get involved in the campaign.

Participants continued the theme of reacting to the NASEM report by hearing from experts involved in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Vision Health Initiative (VHI) Strategic Planning Panel, which includes efforts to address the NASEM recommendations via CDC VHI activities. Expert presenters included:

  • Paul Lee, MD, JD, University of Michigan Medical School; VHI content expert;
  • Jinan Saaddine, MD, MPH, team lead, CDC VHI;
  • Anne Coleman, MD, PhD, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; VHI Strategic Planning Panel, chair, Surveillance Committee;
  • Jeff Todd, JD, Prevent Blindness; VHI Strategic Planning Panel, chair, State/Community Programs Committee; and
  • Heather Whitson, MD, Duke University School of Medicine; VHI Strategic Planning Panel, chair, Applied Research

All participants then broke out into small group sessions to discuss the role that private funding organizations could play in activating the NASEM recommendations and supporting the CDC's Vision Health Initiative, as well as other government entities, with complementary efforts.

The meeting also featured reports from participants on now-successful collaborations that had grown out of interactions and ideas that started at previous years' convenings.

"It has been rewarding to see how willing our fellow supporters of vision research are to work together as a way to maximize each organizations' impact. At the end of the day, we all exist to further similar causes—finding treatments and cures to diseases that rob people of vision—and the participants in this convening know just how complicated, but just how important, that work can be and are eager to partner to achieve our goals," said Hofland.


Organizations Represented at

"Vision Research Funding Partnership IV": 

American Academy of Ophthalmology


Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)

BrightFocus Foundation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CRD Associates

Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation

Duke University Medical Center

E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind

Eyesight Foundation of Alabama

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Foundation Fighting Blindness

Fight for Sight

Glaucoma Research Foundation

Havas PR

Heed Ophthalmic Foundation

Jonas Family Foundation

Lions Club International

Lighthouse Guild

Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC)

Macula Vision Research Foundation

National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR)/Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR)

National Eye Institute (NEI)

National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP)

Prevent Blindness

Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan DC

Richman Associatates, LLC

Reader's Digest Partners for Sight

Research to Prevent Blindness

That Man May See

University of California, Irvine/Macular Degeneration Partnership: Discovery Center for Cornea and Retina

University of California, Los Angeles: Jules Stein Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine

University of Michigan School of Medicine


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