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World Health Organization

Collaboration with the WHO reconfirmed

The WHO has reconfirmed the National Center on Low Vision as a reference point in the field of vision rehabilitation for the third triennium in a row.

From May 2020 until May 2023, the National Center on Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation at the Gemelli hospital in Rome will work alongside the WHO with two different objectives: setting the standard parameters to assess the quality of eye care in countries around the world and conducting a study on the benefits of vision rehabilitation on elderly patients affected by cognitive decline.

“These are two fairly unexplored areas and the National Center, as a WHO Collaborating Center, will pave the way forward”, explained director, Dr. Filippo Amore. “In regard to the assessment parameters, we will provide the WHO with a new tool: a set of guidelines, which the WHO will pass on to its member states so as to assess the state of eye care services around the world more coherently”. The second aspect deals with the possible benefits of vision rehabilitation in elderly patients with cognitive decline. Even though the relationship between sensory deficit (vision/hearing impairments) and cognitive impairment is well documented, there is no evidence of the benefits that sensory rehabilitation can bring in terms of reducing, halting, or inverting the progression of the degeneration. “This is an important aspect,” Dr. Amore explained, “which needs to be demonstrated in order to state that, as we strongly believe, rehabilitation is an integral part of eye care and deserves to be enhanced in different courses of treatment”.

It is not the first time that the National Center, headquartered at the Gemelli Polyclinic hospital in Rome, has collaborated with the WHO. In fact, this is the third 3-year based collaboration period that has just started, and the WHO has entrusted the National Center with a leading role.

“This is an important achievement,” Dr. Amore said, “a confirmation of the quality of the work we have done so far in setting, among other tasks received by the WHO, the international standards in vision rehabilitation and the training path that must be undertaken by health professionals who will deliver vision rehabilitation services”.

“However, such recognition is not a finishing line, but rather an incentive,” added the director. “The National Center on Low Vision has a leading role in the field of vision rehabilitation, both in Italy and around the world, and this is a role that comes with specific responsibilities. The first is continuing research by combining the delivery of vision rehabilitation services and studies aimed at their improvement, while preparing patients to be taken on by other specialized centers in Italy. The second task is to draw the attention of the general public and the decision-makers to the importance of rehabilitation itself, and on the limited means we currently have at our disposal in Italy”.

“The National Center is a rare pocket of excellence, since it combines the multidisciplinary competences of psychologists, ophthalmologists, orthoptics, etc. In this way, we can help our patients accept the consequences of vision impairment and regain their personal autonomy, even when surgery and medicines cannot grant any further improvement. The message we want to send out is this: rehabilitation is an integral part of care, together with prevention and treatment. It is a fundamental resource for patients who have lost a considerable portion of their sight, even when their vision impairment is irreversible. Therefore, it is important to develop a network of rehabilitation centers all over our national territory, with specialized and multidisciplinary staff. With the National Center, Italy has set the gold standard in this field internationally, however, our country needs trained personnel and consistent investment in order to make rehabilitation available throughout our national territory”.

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