A Catalyst for Action and Inspiration for Advocacy

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Early this year, colleague and Editor Dr. Michael Twa invited me to publish in Optometry and Vision Science on the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report that addresses eye and vision health in the context of improving our nation’s population health.  It’s a pleasure to share with you the e-publication from the upcoming April OVS issue.  Accompanying articles by Dr. Twa and colleague Dr. David Heath, SUNY College of Optometry President also address the report.

A bit of background – from 2014-2016, I served on a national multi-disciplinary committee of professionals representing eye/vision, public health, and related stakeholders that was tasked to investigate and develop strategies to improve the nation’s eye health and reduce the impact of vision impairment.  Our work resulted in the report “Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow”.  Over two years, this intensive volunteer research and writing labor of love included five multi-day meetings, two public workshops, one public comment session, one commissioned paper, and countless hours of committee calls and communications.  The true value of our work has yet to be fully realized; dissemination and implementation is just beginning.  But like a big buffet, there is plenty embedded in the report to draw from and put to use – recommendations, definitions, diagrams, conceptual models, and other knowledge that gives the nation a roadmap for improving health through prioritizing eye health and proper care.  The 450-page report provides clinicians, researchers, educators, decision makers, government officials and agencies, the public, and related stakeholders with numerous opportunities that can lead to meaningful population health benefits.

As doctors of optometry, we care for people of all ages with chronic vision impairment, yet there are still no reliable national data on the total number of people affected by all causes of vision impairment in the U.S.  We found that “one model estimates that approximately 90 million of the 142 million Americans over the age of 40 experience vision problems”.  As optometrists, we are keenly aware of the adverse impacts that vision loss, especially when left untreated, has on overall health.  As busy eye doctors, we see these impacts every day.  I hope you read the report, but knowing time is valuable, here is a hit list of five key action-oriented recommendations  – also highlighted by the AOA – that quickly summarize the detailed information contained in the report:

  1. Facilitate public awareness through timely access to accurate and locally relevant information.
  2. Generate evidence to guide policy decisions and evidence-based actions.
  3. Expand access to appropriate clinical care.
  4. Enhance public health capacities to support vision-related activities.
  5. Promote community actions that encourage eye- and vision-healthy environments.

These items focus on current priorities, what our nation needs to address to effect needed change, and where we can begin to target action and intervention.  My sincere hope is that you will find something in it to inspire you to be a catalyst for action too!  Read more…



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