Eye disease is a major public health problem in the United States that causes significant disability, loss of productivity, and diminished quality of life for millions of people. The National Eye Institute (NEI) addresses this public health problem through biomedical research, disease prevention, and health promotion programs.
In 1988, Congress directed NEI “to increase its commitment to the prevention of blindness through public and professional education programs and the encouragement of regular eye examinations.” NEI used appropriated funds to establish the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP), which oversees public and professional education programs on diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, low vision, special population outreach, and vision and aging. NEHEP emphasizes the importance of early detection and timely treatment of eye disease and the benefits of vision rehabilitation.
NEHEP also aims to increase awareness among health professionals and the public of science-based health information that can be applied to preserving sight and preventing blindness. To accomplish this mission, NEHEP partners with many organizations that conduct eye health education programs or that represent populations at higher risk for eye disease.
NEHEP is supported by the NEHEP Planning Committee and the NEHEP Partnership. The Planning Committee recommends program priorities, advises on activities, and facilitates cooperation among the NEHEP Partnership. The Committee comprises public health experts, eye care professionals, and researchers who devote their time and experience to help translate scientific findings into actionable information for healthcare professionals, community representatives, and the public.
The NEHEP Partnership is made up of 65 national organizations. Partnership organizations bring their vast knowledge of—and experience working with—populations at higher risk for eye disease, along with their network of affiliates and health education efforts. The NEHEP Partnership helps develop NEHEP activities, collaborates with NEHEP and other partners and intermediaries, and implements strategies and activities to further the aims of NEHEP.
NEHEP goal and objectives
The goal of NEHEP is to ensure that vision is a public health priority through the translation of eye and vision research into public and professional education programs. All NEHEP programs and activities are designed to reflect this goal. NEHEP has five program areas:
- Diabetic Eye Disease Education Program
- Glaucoma Education Program
- Low Vision Education Program
- ¡Ojo con su visión! (Watch out for your vision!, a Hispanic/Latino education and outreach program)
- Vision and Aging Program
The following objectives serve as a framework to guide all NEHEP activities:
- Develop and implement culturally appropriate, health-literate, and evidence-based education programs that address the early detection, treatment, and low vision rehabilitation of eye diseases and disorders in all settings and life stages of populations at higher risk.
- Build, strengthen, and sustain a formal partnership network to implement eye health education programs.
- Expand NEHEP reach and visibility through collaborations with public, private, and nontraditional partners and use of national, state, and local media; traditional and social media tools; and other relevant channels.
- Provide leadership to federal, state, and local government agencies and public- and private-sector organizations and agencies on eye health–related issues.
- Establish a research and evaluation base that facilitates the development of effective program interventions and health promotion activities.