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08 April 2020
Asthma , COPD, Allergy, Food Allergy, Other Diseases

Between 30th and 31st March, EFA organised its first ever virtual Annual General Meeting of Members (AGM). Given the difficult public health circumstances arising from Covid-19 and taking stock of its responsibility for people living with chronic respiratory diseases, EFA Board and secretariat had decided already in early March to make its 2020 AGM go digital.

First virtual Annual General Meeting was a success!

Yet this early decision allowed for preparing EFA’s first digital AGM as best as possible. With the right technical equipment, and members and staff being briefed in advance, procedures went on smooth and without noteworthy distractions.

Needs and contribution of respiratory patient community in the COVID-19 virus emergency

EFA member organisations are flooded with patients and public seeking advice and reassurance given that they are allergy and respiratory organisations. Patients with respiratory disease are high risk groups and targeted advice for them has been scattered or not available. This has been coupled with worries about their regular care.

At the AGM, the members prioritised that we, as a community, need to develop a public statement on the COVID-19 health and care crisis from the lens of respiratory patients. Second, EFA needs to be the members interloculor for international information and guidance, especially specific to our disease areas. The pollen season is also here, and the symptoms will be mixed up with COVID-19 by many of the up to ¼ of Europeans who have pollen allergy.

EFA thanks all healthcare professionals and our partners organisation European Respiratory Society for everything they are doing right now to help us and everyone to care, tirelessly their patients.

Mikaela Odemyr re-elected as EFA President, Marcia Podestà as new Board Member

EFA was particularly glad to see all technical voting facilities working, and even more happy having Mikaela Odemyr unanimously re-elected as EFA president until 2021. EFA Board further welcomes its new member Marcia Podestà from our member organisation Food Allergy Italia.

EFA welcomes new member organisations from Serbia and Slovenia

During the AGM business session, EFA members’ representatives also accepted two new associations to join the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations. We welcome the Allergiaja i ja association (asthma and allergy, Serbia) and Drustvo Atopijski Dermatitis (atopic eczema, Slovenia) to the EFA family!

After an intense first day, covering the AGM business session and a working meeting on EFA strategy, on the second day EFA members were invited to join presentations on air quality and participate in EFA working groups.

High-level expert keynotes on air quality and COVID-19 for allergy and respiratory patients

High-level experts from (inter)national organizations and universities addressed different aspects of air quality at both the EU and international level in their keynote presentations, having the EU Green Deal as a policy hook.

Dr. Omar Usmani (Imperial College of London) provided insightful data on the impact of air pollution on airways diseases and clarified the current advice available for allergy and respiratory patients on COVID-19; Dorota Jarosińska (World Health Organization [WHO] Regional Office of Europe) presented the ongoing update of the WHO Air Quality Guidelines and their relation with the review of the EU Air Quality standards. She also gave an update what WHO is doing, and the resources it has developed on the COVID-19 (add link), including how to cope psychologically during the unprecedented circumstances.

Last, Ioana Agache (former EAACI President) discussed the importance of digital tools and solutions as means of empowering patients with allergy, asthma and COPD and enabling preventative self-management and real-world data. Research and guided patient self-management are becoming interlinked helping clinicians, patients and researchers to develop truly preventative, predictive, personalised, participatory (P4 medicine) care.

Being a topic of utmost importance for allergy and respiratory disease patients right now, EFA members also took the chance to pose pressing questions on Covid-19 to the high-level public health experts.

Working group sessions allowed for exchange and planning

During the EFA working group sessions, the second day further provided a good opportunity to catch-up on members’ and EFA’s activities, share experiences and best practices but also to plan on joint initiatives and elaborate on how to make the patient voice heard even more on European and national level throughout 2020.

See you in Iceland, 2021

Being happy about this fruitful meeting, EFA thanks all members’ representatives and speakers for participating and making EFA’s first virtual Annual General Meeting of Members a big success! While this year EFA’s AGM trip to Iceland sadly had to be cancelled, yet we are looking forward to make up leeway in 2021 - See you all next year in Reykjavík, sjáumst á næsta ári! Thank you to our host, Icelandic Asthma and Allergy Association.