The American Optometric Association (AOA) is taking action and calling on government, private-sector and nonprofit stakeholders to join forces in making eye health and vision care a national priority by implementing recommendations made by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine (NASEM) in a foundational report, “Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow,” which was released last September.
With nearly half of Americans identifying blindness as the health condition they fear most1, and millions of people nationwide suffering from undiagnosed and undertreated vision impairments, the AOA says the NASEM report2 charts a course toward improving eye health across the country and ensuring that everyone has access to quality vision care.
The plan elevates the importance of efforts by doctors of optometry to expand clinical eyecare services and access to regular in-person comprehensive eye examinations for everyone.
“The National Academies’ report not only emphasizes the critical importance of eye health and vision care improvement, but also identifies the need to responsibly address eye and vision issues that continue to plague millions of Americans,” says Andrea P. Thau, OD, president of the AOA. “The good news is that doctors of optometry have been on the forefront of implementing these recommendations by using the latest technology and tools to deliver evidence-based care and ensure that everyone has access to in-person, comprehensive eye examinations and much needed clinical eyecare.”
The NASEM report outlines five foundational strategies for improving access to vision care:
• Facilitate public awareness through timely access to accurate eye health and vision care information.
• Generate evidence to guide policy decisions and evidence-based actions.
• Expand access to appropriate, in-person clinical care.
• Enhance public health capacities to support vision-related activities.
• Promote community actions that encourage eye- and vision-healthy environments.
“These recommendations are actionable and achievable, and they set a definitive path for the entire vision care community to shape the future of eye health,” says Lori Grover, OD, Ph.D., NASEM panel member, AOA Evidence-Based Optometry Committee member and senior vice-president for health policy at King-Devick technologies, inc.“As a call to action, this road map for the nation supports eye and vision care as fundamental to public health. It also highlights the need for collaboration in the areas of health care delivery, education, research and policy to produce long-term and sustainable reductions in preventable and irreversible vision impairment to reduce negative impacts on populations nationwide.”
AOA is leveraging Save Your Vision Month with a focus on improving public awareness of the dangers to eye health posed by prolonged use of digital devices.
The AOA says this, and other AOA initiatives for improving eye and vision health, have driven awareness of good eye health practices and the importance of in-person eye examinations:
• AOA continues to talk with the CDC to bring a cohesive surveillance system to life that will significantly increase our understanding of population eye health. AOA MORE (Measures and Outcomes Registry for Eyecare), optometry’s registry, will be a crucial source for this system.
• In 2014, AOA issued evidence-based guidelines for eyecare for patients with diabetes mellitus, following the principles outlined in the National Academies’ groundbreaking report “Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust.”3
• AOA’s soon-to-be-publicly-released pediatric vision care guidelines will constitute the only set of evidence-based guidelines for children’s vision care that follow NASEM’s guidance. Adherence to these guidelines will expand access to comprehensive, in-person eye examinations for all children.
• Since 2013, AOA has been a key partner in the Think About Your Eyes campaign, which has made progress in improving vision health and providing a model for future awareness initiatives. A nationwide, multi-faceted public relations and advertising campaign, Think About Your Eyes is a collaborative effort specifically designed to educate Americans on the need for better vision health, motivate them to schedule their annual comprehensive eye examination, and link them to a doctor if they do not already have one. In 2016 alone, the initiative drove an additional 1.15 million people to get an in-person, comprehensive eye exam.
For more information, updates and access to the report, visit http://www.aoa.org.
- JAMA Ophthalmology “Public Attitudes about Eye and Vision Health,” August 2016.
- “Making Eye Health A Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow,” sponsors: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Eye Institute, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Academy of Optometry, American Optometric Association, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, Prevent Blindness and National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health and Research to Prevent Blindness.
- (IOM Committee on Standards for Developing Trustworthy Clinical Practice Guidelines; Institute of Medicine 2011)