The National Eye Health Education Program is coordinated by the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This administrative document may be reprinted without permission.
In This Issue:
Millions of people living in the United States have undetected vision problems. Many of them are unaware that some eye diseases have no warning signs. Comprehensive dilated eye exams are crucial to detecting eye diseases early and the first step to treating these diseases before vision loss occurs. The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) seeks to provide physicians with the resources to educate their patients about these eye diseases and inform them of the need for comprehensive dilated eye exams. Making sure that vision is not just a matter of specialty care remains part of that goal, with many NEHEP materials oriented toward primary care physicians.
The featured organization in this issue of Outlook is the National Medical Association (NMA), a professional organization representing the interests of more than 30,000 African American physicians and the patients they serve. The NMA focuses on improving the quality of care and health outcomes among disadvantaged populations, which are still disproportionately comprised of minorities. In addition to professional development, community health education, advocacy, and research, the NMA pursues partnerships with federal and private agencies, including partnering with the National Eye Institute (NEI) and NEHEP to provide their members with valuable resources.
In other arenas, NEI recently developed new resources for children, seeking to communicate the importance of taking care of their eyes at a young age. These resources include three printable publications and a video series. People who work with children, including teachers, parents, coaches, and healthcare professionals, are encouraged to incorporate these new materials into activities.
September is Healthy Aging Month, and NEHEP resources, particularly the See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit, emphasize that vision loss and blindness are not inherent elements of aging. The educational modules in the toolkit review vision changes commonly associated with aging, offer detailed information about age-related eye diseases, and discuss low vision and the use of vision rehabilitation services.
Please contact us to let us know about your efforts in raising awareness of eye disease among physicians. We would especially appreciate comments on how you have used NEHEP materials and how we can better support your eye health education efforts. As always, 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
September is Healthy Aging Month, a perfect time to remind people that maintaining healthy vision is part of aging well. As people age, they may be at higher risk for developing eye diseases and conditions, some of which can lead to permanent vision loss and blindness. Common age-related eye diseases and conditions include age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP), Vision and Aging, focuses on the eye health needs of adults ages 50 and older and stresses the importance of comprehensive dilated eye exams, which can detect many age-related eye diseases that have no early warning signs. As part of See Well for a Lifetime: An Educational Series on Vision and Aging, NEHEP developed the See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit for people who work with older adults. This toolkit emphasizes that although vision can change with age, vision loss or going blind is not a normal part of aging and that there are many things people can do to protect their sight. The educational modules in this toolkit cover vision changes commonly associated with aging, offer detailed information about age-related eye diseases, and discuss low vision and the use of vision rehabilitation services.
Join NEHEP in raising awareness about age-related eye diseases and conditions and of the importance of older adults getting comprehensive dilated eye exams by downloading the toolkit and conducting a workshop in your community or placing an announcement in your newsletter, blog, website, or social media pages. Remember, no activity is too small, and every effort can make a difference.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in the United States, with people over the age of 50 at higher risk of getting the disease. Although there is no known treatment that can prevent the early stages of AMD, there are known risk factors that can contribute to the disease, including age, genetics, and diet.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) conducted an Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) in 2001 and found that a combination of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and minerals zinc and copper—the AREDS formulation—may help reduce the risk of advanced AMD by 25 percent.
In 2006, NEI launched a follow-up study—AREDS2—to see whether the formulation could be improved by adding omega-3 fatty acids and replacing beta-carotene with two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin. The results of the new study, released on May 5, indicate that adding these additional supplements did not improve the AREDS formulation. However, the findings did show a link between beta-carotene use and lung cancer risk not only for smokers but even for former smokers. Adding lutein and zeaxanthin in place of beta-carotene could improve the AREDS formulation for both smokers and non-smokers. Although the AREDS formulation may delay the progression of advanced AMD and help patients keep vision longer, people over 60 should still get dilated eye exams at least once a year and consult an eye care professional before taking supplements.
The results of the AREDS and AREDS2 studies provide new information on reducing the risk of vision loss from AMD. For more information on the results of the AREDS2 study, go to http://www.nei.nih.gov/areds2.
It’s never too early to start taking care of your eyes. The National Eye Institute (NEI) has developed new resources for children that present information about vision and eyes in a fun, engaging way. These resources include three printable publications and a video series. If you work with children or if you have children of your own, we encourage you to incorporate these new offerings into your activities and share them with your colleagues.
- See All You Can See Activity Book. Designed for elementary school-aged children, this activity book contains word puzzles; image search games; eye safety tips; classroom projects, like cutouts and coloring pages; a glossary; and more to help children learn about parts of the eye, healthy vision, and eye safety.
- See All You Can See Eye Fun Fact Calendar. Designed for elementary school-aged children, this calendar is a great way to learn about the eyes and recognize the importance of healthy vision. The calendar offers 31 interesting tips, facts about sports-related eye injuries, and myth busters about eyes and vision.
- Wild About Healthy Vision Agenda Book. Designed for middle school-aged children, this agenda book features interesting eye-related myth busters and facts, an eye chart, word puzzles, eye safety tips, a glossary, and activities to help children learn about parts of the eye and how they work, healthy vision and eye diseases, and eye safety.
- Ask a Scientist Video Series. In the four brief videos part of this series, children ask NEI scientists questions on some of the topics they’re most curious about, such as how optical illusions work, how color blindness affects vision, and what the job of a scientist entails. In addition to scientists answering questions using kid-friendly language, these videos use fun animations and graphics to teach children about eyes, vision, and the life of a scientist in an entertaining way.
To download the activity book, fun fact calendar, or agenda book or view the Ask a Scientist video series, visit http://nei.nih.gov/kids.
Although not trained to specifically diagnose or treat eye diseases, primary care physicians and physician assistants can play a significant role in the visual health of their patients. Patients frequently look to their physicians for guidance in managing aspects of eye health; for example, in a recent focus group by the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) for people with diabetes, most participants reported that their primary care physician was their most trusted source for health information.
However, the NEHEP survey Primary Care Physicians and Eye Health: Results of a National Web-based Survey found that although more than 8 out of 10 physicians reported discussing eye health with their patients, only 51 percent reported believing they had the adequate knowledge to advise their patients on vision health. Further, only 58 percent believed they could identify patients at higher risk for eye disease.
To help primary care physicians promote eye health among patients, NEHEP has created many educational resources and tools they can use, including:
- Handouts and fact sheets that discuss various eye diseases and the importance of having a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year;
- Teaching tools that healthcare professionals and community health workers can use to inform people about eye diseases;
- E-cards that can be sent to patients with eye diseases, reminding them of the need for annual dilated eye exams;
- Print public service announcements for use in newsletters, publications, or websites; and
- Live-read scripts that can be recorded and played by phone when patients are on hold.
Additionally, for physician assistants, NEHEP provides Eye Disease Facts for Physician Assistants, a fact sheet highlighting risk factors associated with common eye diseases, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, so that these healthcare professionals can talk knowledgeably with their patients about their eye health.
For more resources to help educate patients, visit the NEI Catalog.
To get information in today’s media environment, people are not only using a variety of traditional media—like television, radio, newspapers, and magazines—to stay informed, they are also using the Internet and electronic media. In the past several years, the use of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to disseminate health messages has grown significantly and continues to trend upward. For organizations promoting health, 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 Institute (NEI) is also taking advantage of the Internet to disseminate important eye health information. Check out the NEI YouTube playlist with more than 40 videos, ranging from eye health information to important advances in eye and vision research. Listen to interviews with clinicians, patients, and NEI scientists and learn about NEI-supported research.
View the NEI YouTube playlist today.
Every 15 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall-related injury that may cause hospitalization, long-term care, or even death—all at a cost of more than $30 billion a year in direct medical expenses. There is strong evidence indicating that falls are largely preventable through evidence-based strategies and interventions.
In 2012, 46 states and the District of Columbia participated in National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, with some states and local areas holding week-long events. Some of the more popular activities were obtaining a governor’s proclamation and hosting local health fairs with falls risk screenings.
This year, the 6th annual National Falls Prevention Awareness Day will be observed on September 22. This year’s theme, Preventing Falls–One Step at a Time, seeks to unite professionals, older adults, caregivers, and family members to play a part in raising awareness and preventing falls in the older adult population. Learn more at http://www.ncoa.org/FPAD and reach out to your state to see what’s being planned and how you can be involved. For contact information for the 42-member State Coalitions on Falls Prevention Workgroup, visit ncoa.org/fallsmap.
The American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses (ASORN) was organized in 1976 to unite registered nurses committed to providing quality eye care to patients. Today, ASORN continues this dedication by being a resource to not only ophthalmic nurses but also to healthcare personnel who are committed to promoting collaboration among all who care for patients with ophthalmic needs.
There are exciting educational opportunities from ASORN coming up in 2013. Focus on the ASC, ASORN’s 2013 webinar series, has two remaining live webinars: Pearls for Ophthalmic Instrument Care on August 13 and MIG’s: Shooting Down Glaucoma With Micro Incisional Glaucoma Devices on October 8. Recordings from the winter and spring webinars—Medical Records and Informed Consents: Know the Rules and Houston, We Have a Problem: How To Investigate an Infection in the ASC—are available on the ASORN website for nursing credit.
Additionally, ASORN is proud to host its 37th Annual Meeting, Unmasking the Future of Eye Care, on November 15–17 in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the New Orleans Marriott. Course topics will include 2013 OSHA Update, Making a Difference for Our Veterans and Their Ophthalmic Needs, Compounding Pharmacies: What’s New?, and Navigating This Incredible Mobile Society and How It Can Assist Our Ophthalmic Patients. Get full program information and schedule of events at http://www.asorn.org/annual_meeting.
The ASORN symposium, Prepare for 2014, will be held on Saturday, December 3, at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. This one-day meeting consistently gets outstanding reviews from attendees and has been heralded as an excellent value to earn continuing education credits. Check the ASORN website for more information later this year.
For more information on any of these programs or how to become a member, visit the ASORN Website at http://asorn.org or call the ASORN office at 415–561–8513.
The National Medical Association (NMA) is a professional organization that represents the interests of more than 30,000 African American physicians and of the patients they serve. NMA focuses on improving the quality of care and health outcomes among minorities and disadvantaged people through its membership, professional development, community health education, advocacy, research, and partnerships with federal and private agencies, including its partnership with the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP).
NMA’s Vision Focus Initiative has three core objectives: (1) to educate consumers about diabetes management and diabetic retinopathy; (2) to educate patients with diabetes on glucose level management, as it relates to diabetic retinopathy; and (3) to educate people with diabetes about the importance of seeing an ophthalmologist once a year to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam and discuss any vision changes.
NMA accomplishes these objectives through patient education classes and community outreach efforts, including media campaigns. For example, NMA uses radio public service announcements to promote the importance of annual comprehensive dilated eye exams as well as print public service advertisements, co-branded with NEI. NMA also includes a link on its website to NEHEP’s Diabetes and Healthy Eyes Toolkit for use by its members who work with people with diabetes and those at risk for diabetes.
For more information on the NMA’s Vision Focus Initiative, visit nmadiabetesnet.org.
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. Upcoming NEHEP presentations are listed below. If you plan to be there, please stop by and say, “Hello!”
National Public Health Information Coalition
Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media
August 20–22, 2013
Abstracts: (1) Raising the Profile of Glaucoma Messages Through a Social Media Engagement Campaign (poster); and (2) Developing and Implementing Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Resources for Diabetic Eye Disease (oral)
American Public Health Association
141st Annual Meeting and Exposition
November 2–6, 2013
Abstracts: (1) Low Vision Rehabilitation—Maintaining Independence and Quality of Life (oral); and (2) Preventing Vision Loss and Promoting Eye Health into the Golden Years (oral)
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) 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 NEHEP resources and materials.
Please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!