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30 June 2021

On 27th and 28th May 2021, EFA organised its Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Networking event. Given the unsafe conditions of travelling arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, EFA hosted the meetings online, for the second time. 

EFA is now a Belgian organisation! 

EFA held its EGM to take the decision to close the original Swedish registration dating back from the nineties when we were first founded and become a fully Belgium organisation, close to the EU institutions. Meeting the demands of EFA’s governing Statutes, three quarters of voting members approved the decision to become a non-profit organisation registered in Belgium.

EFA welcomed a total of 3 new member associations, expanding representation into Turkey

The AGM Business session opened, with EFA member delegates approving three new associations to join our federation. We welcomed APS Respiriamo Insieme from Italy as a full member, an organisation committed to prevention and health promotion for children and adults with respiratory disease and severe allergy; Zavod Atopika (InstitutAtopika) from Slovenia as a trial member, a patient organisation offering education, counselling and support for patients with atopic dermatitis and its co-morbidities; and Alerji ile Yasam Dernegi (Living with Allergy Association) from Turkey as a full member, an organisation representing children with any allergic diseases and their families to promote awareness and increase quality of life and care for patientsWith these new members, EFA now represents 42 patient organisations across 25 countries! 

EFA Members elect a new Board

Members also elected a new EFA Board comprised of a new President, Vice-President and 3 Board Members, for a 2-year mandate. We expressed our heartfelt thanks to departing EFA President, Mikaela Odemyr (Swedish Asthma and Allergy Foundation), and departing Vice-President, Erna Botjes (Dutch Food Allergy Organisation), before welcoming our new President Carla Jones (Allergy UK) and EFA Vice-President Marcia Podestà (Food Allergy Italia). Carla and Marcia served previously as Secretary and Board Member, respectively. They are joined by the three newly elected Board Members: Frida Thordardottir from Asthma and Allergy Society Iceland, Armando Ruiz of Spain’s FENAER and Yvonne Spies of Dutch Lung Foundation.

After a busy day covering the EGM and AGM, EFA Members were invited to share best practices at our Networking session on the 28th.

Exchanging lessons from EFA Members

On the second day, EFA members were invited to share national best practices, fostering innovation and collaboration across the EFA network. Four members shared their organisations’ successful and inspiring projects. After each presentation, all participants were invited to ask questions and take part in stimulating discussions. 

Allergy UK's Operations Director Simone Miles presented their work designing masterclasses for healthcare professionals, an ongoing project since 2015. The masterclasses explore key issues in allergy to determine and ensure the best possible care for allergic patients. 

Marcia Podestà, as President of Food Allergy Italia, shared the excellent allergy training courses her association created for school staff. Since 2002 they have organised more than 91 courses for nearly 3,250 schools, helping more than 7,500 school staff manage food allergy and anaphylactic emergencies. As a result, teachers have greater confidence in managing their students’ severe conditions, ensuring safer schools. 

Liliya Gentet, Board Member of the French Federation of Friends of Respiratory or Disabled Patients’ Associations (FFAAIR) presented their initiative which helps encourage people with respiratory insufficiency, handicap and chronic pathologies to remain active. Since 2020 the Calais Respire association, in partnership with FFAAIR, offers two physical activity sessions per week adapted to patients’ capabilities and needs, and guided by a professional trainer. 

Liliya also detailed FFAAIR’s “Tour de France of COPD” initiative. This project encourages patients to get physical activity by cycling or walking and recording their distances travelled. In 2019, 645 patients participated, accumulating 10.780 km in total. 

Lastly, Anna-Karin Klomp Health, Care Policy Advisor at the Swedish Allergy and Asthma Association, presented their successful digital conference laying the groundwork for a potential allergy programme in Sweden. The conference was officially opened by the HRH Swedish Queen Silvia Sommerlath and the Minister for Higher Education and Research. As an outcome, politicians recognised the need for change in allergy and asthma prevention and treatment.

The presentations raised vivid discussions among members on how these best practices were achieved, and what can be learnt from them for inspiration.