“Everyone at the Macular Society is totally committed to beating macular disease”
Macular Society chief executive, Cathy Yelf, tells OT about her charity’s mission to fight the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK
Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK, with 1.5 million people affected. The Macular Society, winner of the AOP Award 2020 Charity of the Year accolade, is committed to changing this story. Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the charity, tells OT about her long-term mission to end Macular Disease for good.
How does it feel to win the AOP Awards 2020 Charity of the Year?
This award recognises the dedication to beating macular disease of our members, supporters and donors. It is thanks to them that we’re able to continue to help those affected by the condition, as well as fund medical research to find a cure.
Why do you think you won the award and what made the charity stand out?Everyone at the Macular Society is totally committed to beating macular disease. It’s at the heart of everything we do – and we will not stop until a cure is found.
Our message is quite clear, simple and something everyone affected by macular disease can understand and unite behind. Ultimately, we want to eradicate this cruel and isolating condition completely. It’s a massive undertaking, but we feel strongly that it’s our duty to do everything we can to make it a reality, and we absolutely believe that it’s achievable.
That’s why we’re investing more than ever before in medical research to find a cure. While this crucial research is ongoing, we’re equally committed to ensuring people with macular disease have access to the best possible support, and reinforcing the importance of good eye health and taking care of your vision.
We want to eradicate this cruel and isolating condition completely
Can you sum up why the work you do is so important?
Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. Nearly 1.5 million people are currently affected and many more are at risk. At the moment, there is no cure and most types of the disease are not treatable. Around 300 people are diagnosed with macular disease every day: it’s vital we’re here to support them and ensure they don’t face macular disease alone.
As a charity, what has been your biggest achievement in the past year?
We’ve invested heavily in research grants and provided funding for Action Against Age-Related Macular Disease, a collaboration between several sight loss charities that will pool resources to invest in cutting-edge research.
Our local macular support groups, more than 400 of them in the UK, have enabled peer support for over 8500 people living with macular disease.
We've provided support to over 13,000 people through our Advice and Information Service and distributed more than 400,000 information leaflets to anyone in need of advice.
We’ve also launched accredited online training for professional members in order to develop a greater understanding of macular disease among professionals and highlight the support available to patients.
Finally, we’ve set up a dedicated Working Age and Young People’s Service to provide a comprehensive range of support, specially tailored to meet the needs of younger people with sight loss and their families.
We’ve launched accredited online training for professional members, to develop a greater understanding of macular disease
What’s the best thing about working in a charity?
We know that what we do really does help people affected by macular disease. People living with the condition, and their families, constantly tell us how much of a difference our work makes. From peer support groups to telephone befriending and counselling service, we have a service to suit everyone, whatever stage they are at, and all of these things really do have a positive impact.
What are the charity’s goals for the coming year?
To continue to work towards the strategic aims we set out in our five-year strategy. We’ve committed to becoming the largest funder of eye research in the sight loss sector, funding £6m of internationally important research per year by 2023.
We’ll continue developing all our services: face to face, telephone, digital and our membership offering, so that no one has to face macular disease alone. And we’ll continue to reinforce the importance of good eye health and prioritising macular disease with health policy decision makers.