“Outdoor Eyewear”: Present Sunwear in a New Light

By Ronald L. Hopping, OD, MPH, FAAO, and Shirley Earley, LDO

Present sunwear as the outdoor parallel to the eyewear that patients wear indoors. Protect your patient’s eyes and reinforce your health advisory role by presenting them with the “Sun Facts,” one component of a new consumer education campaign.

Sunwear has too often been presented to patients as a nice-to-have rather than as a must-have. In fact, many patients still think of sunglasses as nothing but an optional fashion accessory. As ECPs, it is our job–indeed, part of the optometric mission–to educate patients about how to best care for and protect their eyes. With that in mind, the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the Opticians Association of America (OAA), with support from Luxottica and The Vision Council, have formed a SUN alliance. This alliance is designed to empower practices and businesses with the training and information needed to educate and prescribe sun protection for every patient.

[CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD a SUN PROTECTION FAQ SHEET, which you can make available in your office for patients]

A summery multi-colored sunwear display in New York City’s West Village.

Optometric Mission: Sunwear
As an OD, there are several reasons that I tell patients they would benefit from wearing good sunglasses. The first is to protect their eyes from UV radiation which has been clearly shown to have harmful effects on the eyes such as causing or speeding up the onset of cataracts. The second reason is to decrease glare from bright lights which helps vision and the third reason is for better comfort since bright sunlight causes discomfort and squinting. The fourth reason is only for my dry eye patients who normally don’t wear any lens protection, and in their case, the sunglasses help decrease dryness in the eyes.

Protect, Prescribe, Present

At the core of the SUN initiative is a comprehensive training program created to help eyecare professionals deliver a lifetime of outdoor eye protection. The COPE, ABO-approved and AOA Commission on Paraoptometric Certification (CPC) credit educational series, Protect, Prescribe and Present, will be delivered digitally, and encompass the following:

Describes the health issues resulting from UV and High Energy Visible (HEV) radiation exposure, delivering a set of actionable steps for the practitioner to ensure that all patients understand the importance of quality outdoor eye protection.

Develops an action plan for the optometrist and the optician. For the doctor, this course delivers examples of how to discuss the research that proves the need for sun protection. For the optician, this segment clearly defines how to set goals and identify the best protective products.

Teaches one of the most difficult areas for many offices to master–the language and methods to visually merchandise outdoor eyewear to every consumer/patient. This segment presents methods to easily communicate the benefits of prescribing and dispensing outdoor eyewear.

A sun-drenched sunwear window display in the SoHo neighborhood in New York City.

Available to Doctors in Print, Online and Live
This three-part educational series is available in print, online and live, three continuing education courses titled Protect, Prescribe and Present. Look for the SUN logo and it will point you to each new part of the initiative. Doctors should look to the AOA web site for the schedule of events describing the program and for transcripts of COPE-approved courses. Opticians and optometric staff should go to ROB sister publication 20/20 for the print versions of each of the three ABO-approved courses.

Visit (for COPE) and (for ABO) for the online versions of the courses, resource lists, downloads and new tools that will enable every office to help customers and patients understand the need for quality outdoor eyewear.

Additional AOA Sun Protection Resources

Shopping Guide for Sunglasses

UV Protection with Contact Lenses

Sun Protection Resources from The Vision Council

A new report from The Vision Council, “The Bureau of Missing Sunglasses,” found that more than 55 percent of adults in the United States lose or break their sunglasses every year. For these and the 27 percent of adults who do not ever wear sunglasses, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation could end up costing them a lot more than a new pair of shades. Click HERE to read more.

Click HERE for the Vision Council’s consumer-oriented sunwear web site.

Ronald L. Hopping, OD, MPH, FAAO, is president of the American Optometric Association and owner of Hopping Eye Associates in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at:

Shirley Earley, LDO, is president of the Optical Association of America and a licensed optician at Focal Pointe Eye Care in West Chester, Ohio. She can be reached at:

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