Dear friends, colleagues, EACD members and well-wishers,
My warm wishes to you and your family for the season. I write to you as the new Chair of the EACD, having taken over from the irreplaceable Professor Giovanni Cioni. Professor Cioni served the EACD as Chairperson for 6 years and with his leadership we have gained huge strength as an organisation. His intellect, charm, warmth and humour are legendary and his shoes will be hard to fill. We were hoping to show our appreciation of his contribution to the EACD in the large gathering of our AGM in Poznan but sadly this will now be through the web AGM meeting.
I write this at a very difficult time for the world due to the COVID pandemic and a particularly challenging time for the children and families we serve. The Europe wide ‘Impact of COVID -19’ survey the EACD conducted has shown significant reduction in treatment/therapy, increasing family burden of caregiving, financial difficulties and escalating stress in families and children with disability. Our colleagues, professionals working in our field of childhood disability, have also been adversely affected in their work, personal health and their family lives. You can access the interim report here http://edu.eacd.org/eacd-covid-19-surveys-initial-report. There is also qualitative data in 18 European languages which we are currently analysing and will be available soon on our educational website http://edu.eacd.org/. The pandemic is now in its second wave and we are heading into the second set of lockdowns. It is very likely to have a more severe and negative effect on the families we serve and I would urge you all to go the extra mile to help and support them in every way possible. From the first wave we have learnt our lesson: the real need during any lockdown is supporting children with chronic health needs in the community, maintaining their rehabilitation and medical support services. Do make sure that this happens and argue their case by using data from our survey.
The pandemic has also severely affected our Annual Meetings. The 32nd EACD Annual Meeting was originally scheduled in Poznan in the summer. We had hoped for all of us to meet in person by deferring to November but sadly the second wave has caught us out and we will have the meeting over the web. I thank all you who have registered for your patience and understanding. The Polish organising team led by Professor Marek Joziak has organised a wonderful treat with a program full of great science, fabulous keynotes, and a virtual cultural program for us to enjoy. I sincerely hope you will join us. Please register at https://www.eacd2020.org/ if you have not already done so.
Based on a reading of the current pandemic situation the EACD General Management Committee along with the Organising Committee for the 33rd Annual Meeting in Bruges in 2021 have come to a decision to postpone the Bruges meeting to 2024, when we can all enjoy the delights that Bruges has to offer. In its place we are busy putting together an exciting and innovative EACD 2021 virtual meeting, led by our Scientific Committee Chair, Christopher Newman. Keep watching out for more details.
The world around us is changing fast. Apart from the pandemic forcing us to change the way we live and work, there are other winds of change blowing from the Black Lives Matter movement, the devastating events from climate change, Brexit and the impact of divisive politics on all our lives. It affects us all. We need to respond to the change and utilise every opportunity that comes our way to make things better. With this in mind the EACD is starting a new chapter. We are changing as an organisation. In my address to the AGM I will update our membership about our future direction of travel. This includes
- The professionalization of the organisation and moving from being a UK based charity to an International Non-Profit Association (INPA) based in Brussels
- Developing a strong user involvement group including children, families and adults with childhood onset disabilities to advise us on policy and our scientific priorities
- Developing strong pan-European networks focused on teaching, training, research and advocacy. This would be through supporting new Academies (Polish & Ukrainian in 2020), commissioning guidelines in areas of knowledge gaps (Cerebral Visual Impairment Consensus Statement, 2020) and developing training programs like the Pisa Summer School for young European researchers (2019)
- Develop a Technology & Innovation Task Force focusing on how we can improve function and participation by bringing technological advances to our clinical practice
- Encourage a wide and diverse participation in our organisation irrespective on race, gender, religion, cultural identity or language. We want to celebrate the diversity we enjoy in Europe.
- Be at the forefront of collaboration with our international partners in the International Alliance of Academies of Childhood Disability and beyond
I hope you will join the Annual General Meeting on the 26th November at 19-00 hours (Central European Time) to find out a lot more about these initiatives.
Last but not the least, I wish to bring to your attention and thank the group of really hard working individuals who comprise the EACD GMC, the different committees, our National Co-ordinators, our web support, the children and families who contribute to our work. They give up their time selflessly, for no remuneration except to see the EACD fulfil its goals and prosper. There are too many to name here but I wish to thank each and every one of them and count on their support for my work.
In my role as your new Chair I will try my best to achieve the ambitions we have set out. These are uncertain times and it is will be a difficult task but I am sure that together we will succeed. I do want to hear directly from our members and you can email me directly with your advice and suggestions on firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to connecting with you over web at the virtual EACD 32nd Meeting hosted by Poznan, Poland. Till then, take care and stay safe.