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National Eye Institute Releases National Plan for Eye and Vision Research

January 28, 2004

The National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the Federal government’s National Institutes of Health, recently published its latest planning document, National Plan for Eye and Vision Research. The Plan provides a clear view of the state of vision research and identifies the most pressing scientific needs and opportunities. The planning process provides a vehicle to more rapidly identify and bring emerging areas of science to bear on vision problems.

“The National Plan will help the NEI set priorities for laboratory and clinical research and measure progress toward the development of new knowledge that can help prevent vision loss and restore sight for the millions of Americans who already live with eye disease and for those who are at risk,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NEI.

The National Plan addresses each of the NEI’s major programs.

  • Retinal Diseases Program: includes studies of diseases of the retina and its blood supply that account for most of the blindness and visual disability in the U.S. Among the most prevalent diseases are macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older age Americans and diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of visual impairment in working age Americans.
  • Corneal Diseases Program: addresses the most painful of all eye diseases and disorders, including herpes infections, dry eye, and corneal injury.
  • Lens and Cataract Program: supports research that will lead to improved treatment or the means to prevent cataracts, the leading cause of blindness worldwide and a problem for many older Americans.
  • Glaucoma and Optic Neuropathies: supports research aimed at understanding the causes of and improving the treatment for glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness in African Americans.
  • Strabismus, Amblyopia and Visual Processing Program: focuses research on developmental diseases and disorders that affect children.
  • Low Vision and Blindness Rehabilitation Program: improves the quality of life for Americans living with visual impairment and blindness through development of assistive devices and technology.
  • National Eye Health Education Program: focuses on public and professional education programs that encourage early detection and timely treatment of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease and appropriate treatment for low vision.

The development and publication of the National Plan is the first of a two-phase strategic planning process for the NEI. The second phase consists of an ongoing effort to conduct workshops, conferences, and symposia in critical and emerging research areas to explore how they might be applied to eye diseases. This second phase will assist the NEI in evaluating and updating the National Plan and to fulfill its goals and objectives.

The development of the Plan involved the National Advisory Eye Council (the committee charged with guiding the NEI’s scientific decision making), members of the vision research community, public groups, and professional and advocacy organizations. The Plan is available on the NEI’s Web site at

The National Eye Institute (NEI) is part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NEI-sponsored research on eye diseases and disorders leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness.