Next month, the National Eye Institute (NEI) will be celebrating Healthy Vision Month, an annual observance that presents an opportunity for public outreach. The theme for this year, Healthy Vision: Make It Last a Lifetime, will be supported by health messages and activities that promote the importance of comprehensive dilated eye exams in maintaining good eye health.
A comprehensive dilated eye exam is a simple and painless procedure, but one that is crucial to eye health. Millions of people in the United States have undetected vision problems. Consistent with the goals of Healthy Vision Month, the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) aims to raise awareness about eye health in communities across the country. The Healthy Vision Month Website provides an array of ideas for involving everyone in efforts to promote eye health, with specific suggestions for health professionals, national and community organizations, teachers, parents, and employers. In particular, the Healthy Eyes Toolkit includes downloadable resources such as fact sheets, e-cards, public service announcements, teaching tools, flyers, video podcasts, and more.
It is especially important to reach older adults with eye health information. It is well known that as people age, they are at higher risk of vision loss from age-related eye diseases. We know that many eye diseases, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, do not have early symptoms but can be detected in their early, treatable stages through a dilated eye exam. Communicating this message effectively could have a huge public health impact. This issue of Outlook includes strategies for communicating with older adults about eye health, including approaches for using the Internet and social media to reach them.
We also want to call attention to innovative local efforts to help those who are visually impaired to live more independently. The Healthy Vision Community Awards Spotlight article in this issue highlights a project by the nonprofit organization, NewView Oklahoma, designed to provide accessible diabetes education and training to individuals who are visually impaired.
Please contact us to let us know about your efforts to promote eye health during Healthy Vision Month and beyond. We would especially appreciate any feedback on how you have used NEHEP materials and how those materials could be enhanced. We all have an important role to play in making vision a health priority, and every effort makes a difference. We look forward to hearing from you.
Anne Louise Coleman, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair, National Eye Health Education Program Planning Committee
The Fran and Ray Stark Professor of Ophthalmology
Jules Stein Eye Institute
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Professor of Epidemiology
UCLA School of Public Health
Healthy Vision Month is a great opportunity to help educate people about general eye health and to make sure they understand the importance of regular comprehensive dilated eye exams in maintaining healthy vision.
Early detection and timely treatment of eye disease are key ways to prevent vision loss and blindness. Many people who are at risk for vision loss do not know it, and millions of people living in the United States have undetected vision problems and eye diseases and conditions. The Healthy Vision Month Website offers a variety of ideas for promoting eye health. Many strategies incorporate the use of National Eye Institute (NEI) and National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) materials, including those from the Healthy Eyes Toolkit, e-cards, public service announcements, vodcasts, and more.
We encourage you to customize approaches to address any eye health issue of concern in your community. Here are some ways to get started:
Involve Everyone. Start a chain reaction! Send an e-card or text message to remind friends, family, and colleagues about the importance of having comprehensive dilated eye exams. Post messages on Facebook and Twitter and ask people to share and retweet them. Encourage all of your contacts to send the messages to their family and friends; they should encourage others to do the same. You get the idea!
Involve Health Professionals. Make presentations at health fairs and other community events. Bring a supply of bookmarks to give out to participants to remind them to schedule comprehensive dilated eye exams, or drop the bookmarks off at your local library or community center. The NEI Catalog offers lots of other resources that you can use to help share information with people about the importance of eye health, comprehensive dilated eye exams, and eye safety.
Involve National and Community Organizations. Use a drop-in article for a newsletter, website, or blog. Choose from a variety of eye health topics in English and Spanish.
Involve Employers. Print or order posters, stickers, and magnets about eye safety in the workplace available to employees. Give a presentation on workplace eye safety. Add a link to the Healthy Eyes Webpage to your company website or intranet.
Involve Parents and Teachers. Put on an eye safety event for the parents and coaches of local sports teams, such as soccer, baseball, softball, or basketball. Use the NEI Sports-Related Eye Injury Presentation and Speaker’s Guide to give a talk and answer questions about sports-related eye injuries.
Share Videos. NEI developed a series of vodcasts that stress the important role dilated eye exams play in the early detection of the most common eye diseases and conditions and available treatment options. We invite you to link to these vodcasts from your website or share them via your social media outlets. To view these vodcasts, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov/videos.
Visit the Promote Healthy Vision Month section of the HVM Website to access resources to promote May as HVM. Find promotional drop-in articles, web buttons, banners, and messages for Facebook and Twitter.
Every effort makes a difference! Contact us and let us know what you are doing to observe Healthy Vision Month.
As people age, normal functions of the eye tissues change and blinding eye diseases and conditions become more prevalent. The most common age-related eye diseases and conditions are age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, presbyopia, and dry eye. It is important to develop and implement effective health education strategies to inform older adults about disease risk factors and the importance of early detection of eye disease in preventing vision loss. A critical message to convey is that age-related eye diseases are often asymptomatic in their early stages but can be detected early through a comprehensive dilated eye exam.
How we deliver health information to older adults can vary because this population can sometimes be difficult to reach. Lifestyle factors must be considered as you begin to plan your outreach program. Where do they seek their information? Where are they exposed to messages?
Profile of the Older Adult Population
Older people with treatable symptoms tend to dismiss their problems as an inevitable part of aging. As a result, they may not seek medical care and may suffer needless discomfort and disability. They may not even seek treatment for serious conditions, including vision loss. Some people may not mention symptoms because they are afraid of the diagnosis or treatment. They may be concerned that the physician will recommend surgery, suggest costly diagnostic tests or medications, or tell them to stop driving.
Effective Communication Channels
A target audience profile analysis conducted by the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) revealed that among adults ages 60 and older, 57 percent are heavy television viewers and about 58 percent are heavy newspaper readers. Additionally, 29 percent of older adults are heavy magazine readers and 51 percent are medium to light magazine readers. About 27 percent of older adults are heavy radio listeners and 58 percent are light radio listeners.
The number of adults ages 50 and older who use the Internet nearly doubled between 2009 and 2010, from 22 percent to 42 percent. Moreover, 47 percent of Internet users between 50 and 64 and 26 percent of users 65 and older are using social media sites.
Although the Internet is increasingly being used to gain knowledge about health-related topics, many older adults are not computer literate and cannot imagine why they should spend money and time learning how to use a computer. However, Internet usage continues to increase among this population and should be considered an effective tool to reach older adults. Internet materials developed for older adults should be designed to address health literacy levels, cognitive abilities, and vision problems that may affect this population.
There are many channels that can be used to reach older adults with eye health information. These include healthcare settings, pharmacies, faith-based institutions, senior centers, community centers, and state health departments. Additionally, peer educators, trained lay health workers, and clergy can be instrumental in building trust and delivering health messages in a trusted environment.
In need of ideas? There are many opportunities for increasing awareness about eye health among older adults. Consider the following strategies:
- Research community-based eye health education programs targeted to older adults using the Healthy Vision Community Programs Database to get ideas and inspiration.
- Use the educational modules in the See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit to speak at senior centers or civic, employee, cultural, faith, and fraternal events about the importance of comprehensive dilated eye exams and how people can protect their vision as they age.
- Distribute information such as the Medicare Benefit Card to older adults where they live or obtain services, including health clinics, senior centers, retirement homes, and community centers. Share information at social events, meetings of support groups and special interest clubs (such as book clubs, knitting clubs, mall walking clubs, etc.), employee meetings, and after-faith services.
- Provide educational materials to patients or assisted-living facility residents and their families.
- Send e-cards to remind people to make an appointment for a comprehensive dilated eye exam for themselves or a loved one.
- Establish a vision and aging information center in your health center, community center, personnel office, or employee cafeteria. Sponsor a health fair, make room for an exhibit, or provide space for a table or booth to distribute educational materials.
- Display posters and brochures from the National Eye Institute in your office or educational setting, and at community events or anywhere people will view them.
- Put a print PSA in one of your organizational newsletters, magazines, or publications.
For additional education ideas and resources you can use in your community, visit the NEHEP Vision and Aging Program page.
In today’s media environment, people are not only using a variety of traditional media formats to get information—television; radio; and print publications, such as newspapers and magazines—but are also using the Internet and electronic media to stay informed. In the past several years, the use of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, as well as organization websites to disseminate health messages has grown significantly and continues to trend upward. Using social media tools has become an effective way to expand reach, foster engagement by allowing feedback, and increase access to credible health messages.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) provides you with such tools, including the Healthy Eyes Widget, web banners, and videos. Use these resources to promote eye health information and the importance of comprehensive dilated eye exams.
Healthy Eyes Widget
Widgets are online applications built by one website that can be displayed on another website. These applications display featured content directly on your web page. And you can embed content in personalized home pages, blogs, and other sites.
Download the widget onto your website and keep visitors up to date on relevant eye health information and resources. It’s as simple as cutting and pasting the HTML code provided into your web page. Once you have added the widget, there is no technical maintenance or cost. NEHEP will update the content automatically.
The Healthy Eyes Widget includes a series of regularly updated questions and answers designed to raise awareness about the importance of healthy vision. People can test their eye health knowledge and get links to more information.
Web Banners and Buttons
Web banners and buttons are other tools you can display on your website to promote eye health and link people to more information. To add a banner or button go to the Badges and Banners page in the Healthy Eyes Toolkit and just copy the code under the image you want and paste it into your webpage. You’ll find banners promoting comprehensive dilated eye exams and other resources.
Share eye health videos from NEHEP on your website, through social media outlets, or send links to people on your listserves. These videos stress the important role dilated eye exams play in the early detection of disease; the symptoms, or lack thereof, of the most common eye diseases and conditions; and available treatment options. Topics include comprehensive dilated eye exams, age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic eye disease, dry eye, and glaucoma.
Last year, the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) worked with Dr. Rachel Bishop, Chief of Consult Services at the National Eye Institute, to develop a series of educational vodcasts on comprehensive dilated eye exams, age-related macular degeneration, cataract, dry eye, glaucoma, and diabetic eye disease. These vodcasts stress the important role dilated eye exams play in the early detection of disease; the symptoms, or lack thereof, of the most common eye diseases; and conditions and available treatment options.
Recently, NEHEP added a new vodcast, Common Vision Problems, to this collection. In this video, Dr. Bishop gives a brief overview of refractive error and talks about nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia and how common vision problems can be detected and treated.
NEHEP invites you to link to these vodcasts from your website or share them via your social media outlets. To view these vodcasts, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov/videos.
We’ve all heard that exercise is good for you, but did you know that this is as true for older people as for other age groups? You’re never too old to increase your level of exercise and physical activity.
This is the core message of Go4Life, the national exercise and physical activity campaign for people 50 years and older led by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health. Go4Life brings research-based resources on health and aging together with a variety of agencies and organizations working with older people in the community to encourage baby boomers—and their parents—to make exercise and physical activity a regular part of their everyday lives.
“Older adults can exercise safely, even those who have physical limitations,” said NIA Director Dr. Richard J. Hodes. “Go4Life is based on studies showing the benefits of exercise and physical activity for older people, including those with chronic health conditions. This new campaign reaches out to older adults who traditionally have not embraced exercise, and shows them how to increase their level of physical activity and have fun doing it.”
To develop Go4Life, NIA brought together some of the leading experts in the Nation on aging, exercise, and motivation. The campaign centers on the interactive website, http://www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life, which offers information for individuals, families and friends, organizations, and healthcare professionals. It features specific exercises, success stories, and tips to help people stay motivated to improve their health and achieve a better quality of life. Other free materials include an exercise DVD, tip sheets, and the new pocket-sized Workout to Go, which shows how to be active anytime, anywhere.
NIA is partnering with other federal agencies as well as with national organizations, corporations, insurers, healthcare providers, nonprofit organizations, senior centers, fitness professionals, libraries, and others. Public and private organizations whose interests and activities involve health, aging, and exercise are invited to join the Go4Life team and spread the word that exercise and physical activity are important for the health of older people. For more information on the public and private support of the Go4Life initiative and to find out how to become a part of the campaign, please visit http://www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life.
For more information, contact Karen Pocinki at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has launched OjosSanos, a Spanish-language version of the EyeSmart website, to empower Hispanics/Latinos with trusted and accurate eye health information. The effort is in response to ongoing research showing that Hispanics/Latinos have a high incidence of eye disease.
The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study, sponsored by the National Eye Institute and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, was the first effort to track eye disease incidence among Hispanics/Latinos. The study found this population had higher rates of developing visual impairment, blindness, diabetic eye disease, and cataracts than non-Hispanic Whites. The risk for glaucoma in Hispanics/Latinos was found to be four times higher than it is in Whites. Most importantly, the study found 75 percent of the Hispanics/Latinos with glaucoma were unaware of their eye disease, and almost half of all Latinos with diabetes had diabetic retinopathy.
To learn more about this new Spanish-language website, visit http://www.ojossanos.org.
To find ideas and educational resources, materials, and teaching tools for use in Spanish-speaking communities, visit the NEHEP ¡Ojo con su visión! Program Website.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Chinese is the third most spoken language in households across the country. Furthermore, more than 20 percent of Chinese Americans are 55 and older, an age group that is at a higher risk for a variety of health problems, including eye disease.
In order to best serve this community, EyeCare America, a national nonprofit organization that provides eye exams and eye health information to medically underserved communities, now features a Chinese-language option to an online referral service. Chinese speakers can visit http://www.eyecareamerica.org to find out if they qualify for a free eye exam given by one of nearly 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists across the United States and Puerto Rico.
To learn more, visit http://www.eyecareamerica.org.
Pharmacy health literacy is the degree to which individuals are able to obtain, process, and understand basic health and medication information and pharmacy services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Medication errors are higher with patients with limited health literacy, as they are more likely to misinterpret both the prescription and auxiliary label information.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been working on an initiative to help pharmacists ensure that the care and instructions they provide to patients are understandable. AHRQ has released a number of products, including a new curriculum, Advancing Pharmacy Health Literacy Practices through Quality Improvement: Curricular Modules for Faculty. These products help integrate health literacy quality improvement into courses, experiential education, and doctorate in pharmacy thesis or pharmacy residency projects. AHRQ has also developed the publications, Guide on How to Create a Pill Card and Telephone Reminder Tool to Help Refill Medicines on Time.
To download these materials and find other health literacy resources, visit http://www.ahrq.gov/pharmhealthlit/index.html#pharmlitqi.
The leading causes of vision impairment and blindness in the United States are primarily age-related eye diseases. The number of Americans at risk for age-related eye diseases is increasing as the baby boomer generation ages.1 Many of these are the result of sight- threatening age-related eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. As if the health impact was not enough, blindness and vision impairment represent a significant financial burden to individuals and society.
Despite these alarming rates of prevalence and cost, and the lack of understanding of eye disease and preventive behavior, public resources for vision and eye health are diminishing at a drastic rate. This past year alone, funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dedicated to national vision and eye health efforts dropped from an already low $3.2 million to an alarming $511,000.
On June 20, 2012, at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center in Washington, DC, Prevent Blindness America (PBA) will hold the Focus on Eye Health: A National Summit to advance new essential public health data on vision and eye health. The event will provide updates of two very significant public health reports from PBA: Vision Problems in the U.S., and The Economic Impact of Vision Problems, as well as a variety of public health presentations that will address vision and eye health in the United States. Data from the new reports will be available through a searchable database housed on the PBA website.
Attendees at the Summit will include patient advocates, community-based organizations, national vision and eye health organizations, government agencies, and policymakers.
“By bringing together leaders and key stakeholders in the fight against adult eye disease, we hope the Summit will provide them with the data they need to educate the public, as well as government representatives, on how we can work collaboratively today to save the vision of millions of Americans in the future,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of PBA.
For more information about the PBA Focus on Eye Health: A National Summit, please visit http://www.preventblindness.org/eyesummit or call 800–331–2020.
One in three older Americans falls every year. Since 2004, the Falls Free© Initiative has been working with states and national organizations, including the National Eye Heath Education Program (NEHEP), to bring greater awareness to the issue through education and training, and by advocating for a federal investment in community programs and services that reach older adults. The National Council on Aging leads Falls Free© and supports the State Coalitions on Fall Prevention Workgroup. There are more than 40 states committed to this issue.
Vision impairment is a risk factor for falls and older adults are often affected by vision loss from age-related eye diseases and conditions such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or age-related macular degeneration. All adults over age 50 should have a comprehensive dilated eye examination to detect eye diseases in their early, treatable stages. Eye care professionals can determine how often a person needs to have a dilated eye exam based on their risk factors for eye disease. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends older adults update their eyeglasses to maximize their vision and encourages those who wear eyeglasses to consider getting a pair with single-vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside.2
Increasing awareness about the connection between vision impairment and falls is important. Each year on the first day of fall, states and communities observe Falls Prevention Awareness Day to promote awareness about falls. In 2011, vision screenings were included in 60 percent of State Coalitions on Fall Prevention that reported fall-risk screening efforts. Vision changes, vision disorders, and low vision can be identified through comprehensive dilated eye exams, and older adults can take steps to reduce their risk of falling. This year, Falls Prevention Awareness Day is Saturday, September 22, 2012. Learn more about Falls Prevention Awareness Day at http://www.ncoa.org/fpad. Contact your State Coalitions on Fall Prevention and learn how you and your organization can get involved at http://www.ncoa.org/fallsmap.
NewView Oklahoma, a recipient of a 2011 Healthy Vision Community Award (HVCA), has used the award to provide accessible diabetes education and training to individuals who are visually impaired.
The organization, formerly the Oklahoma League for the Blind, located in Oklahoma City, OK, is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1949. Its mission is to empower people who are blind and visually impaired to achieve their maximum level of independence through employment, rehabilitation, and community outreach.
With HVCA funding, NewView, along with the Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS), established the Adapted Type 2 Diabetes Education Program for Persons with Vision Impairment to deliver tailored education and information to support diabetes self-management among those with diabetes-related vision loss. The goal was to provide six week-long classes consisting of 30 total hours of medically based diabetic education and vision rehabilitation. This included three, intensive one-week versions of the program in rural communities. Through these classes, NewView sought the following for participants:
- Be able to test glycemic levels, inject insulin, and take medications without assistance.
- Accomplish the majority of daily tasks independently, make full use of adaptive aids, and socialize and move freely and safely in and out of the home.
- Achieve at least 60 percent of personal wellness goals resulting in at least a 50 percent improvement in glycemic levels.
In a six-month period, NewView held two classes in the Oklahoma City area with a total of 12 participants. All those who participated gave the class high ratings, and all but one individual had satisfactory A1C readings in the past three months.
NewView is building new relationships with for-profit and nonprofit healthcare providers, optometrists, ophthalmologists, faith-based organizations, and assisted-living and retirement centers throughout the state. It is also assessing the program to ensure that participants' needs are met.
To learn more about other community-based eye health education activities or to submit a project you have in your community, visit the Healthy Vision Community Programs Database.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) regularly attends and exhibits at national meetings across the country. Exhibits and presentations provide an opportunity to share information and publications, promote NEHEP messages and resources, and strengthen links with Partnership and other intermediary organizations. If you plan to be at the meetings below, please stop by and say “hello”!
National Council of La Raza
NCLR Annual Conference
Las Vegas, NV
July 7–10, 2012
The National Eye Institute (NEI) wants to know what you think about Outlook. Let us know what you find beneficial, ideas for content you would like to see in upcoming issues, or suggestions for improvement. We're always interested in hearing about your eye health education efforts and especially how you have used the National Eye Health Education Program resources and materials.
Please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!