In this issue:
Spring is a season of rebirth, renewal, and regrowth. This makes it the perfect time to celebrate Healthy Vision Month (HVM).
In May, the National Eye Institute (NEI) sponsors HVM, an annual observance to encourage Americans to make their vision a health priority. In addition to promoting regular eye exams, we highlight the importance of knowing your family’s eye health history to understand your own risks for developing eye diseases. We also stress the value of prevention to defend against visual impairment. You can live a healthy lifestyle by exercising and eating right; avoiding smoking; protecting your eyes from the sun, and using eye safety gear while engaging in sports and doing yard work. These are all things people should do year-round to help protect their eyes from disease and injury. NEI has developed a variety of resources in English and Spanish to help make it easy for you—our partner organizations, friends, and colleagues around the country—to join us in promoting eye health and safety. You can find resources on our Healthy Vision Month website.
In addition, the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) has finalized the Spanish version of our popular Vision and Aging: See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit, Cómo ver bien durante toda la vida. We want to thank all of the professionals and organizations who serve Hispanics/Latinos for helping to review and test these new materials.
The NEHEP Partnership and other intermediary organizations play an important role in helping us develop our materials and sharing our eye health information in ways that are meaningful and relevant to our target populations. It is through your efforts that we are able to reach millions of people all over the country where they live, work, and play. Your efforts—from simple activities like helping social media messages go viral, sharing and posting infocards and infographics, writing blog posts and other content on your website, and simply distributing materials at health fairs and other community settings—help make a big difference in people’s access to eye health information. We at NEI view you as an extension of our team, and appreciate the energy and recommitment to eye health education you make each year. This issue of Outlook contains great information about activities and resources from various NEHEP partners that we hope will spark new ideas for outreach and collaboration.
Happy spring and happy reading!
Mark Wilkinson, O.D.
NEHEP Planning Committee
Chair of the Low Vision Subcommittee
Magnification continues to be the main treatment option for enhancing the visual functioning of individuals with vision loss. That said, more and more off-the-shelf options are being used by people with vision loss with great success.
There are four types of magnification options that individuals with visual impairments use to enhance their visual abilities. The first is relative distance magnification. By holding materials closer to the eye, they appear bigger. Children with visual impairments do this naturally. An adult will require the appropriate powered reading correction for this to work effectively.
Next is relative size magnification, where the object is made larger, such as with large print materials. The problem is that large print is not readily available in the myriad of materials that individuals with visual loss need to read on a regular or daily basis.
The third type is angular magnification, provided through a low vision device, such as a handheld magnifier or telescope.
Last, and often most effective, is electronic magnification, which is available in full-sized and handheld versions, as computer software and built-in accessibility options on smartphones and tablets. Electronic magnification can increase the size of the image and the amount of contrast, which for many individuals with vision loss, is most critical for ease of reading.
In addition to the magnification options, task lighting continues to be the single most important factor in enhancing visual functioning. In fact, one study found that more than 90 percent of individuals with vision loss showed some improvement in near or distance vision when the illumination was improved.
Technology advancements over the past decade have removed significant barriers for individuals with vision loss, allowing them to engage in activities that would have been difficult to impossible in the past. With widespread adaption of digital devices by sighted and visually impaired alike, individuals who are visually impaired are not stigmatized by using them. For example, despite their small screens and keypads, several features built into smartphones and tablets make them easily accessible to users who are blind or visually impaired.
Screen-reading software is able to convert text to speech to read aloud what is on screen, confirm selections, type letters and commands, and provide keyboard shortcuts to make application and webpage navigation easier. Magnification apps make everything on screen up to 15 times its original size, while maintaining its original clarity. Additional options that increase accessibility include the large text option, which allows users to select a larger font size for any text appearing on their device.
Many individuals with vision loss read better with the reversed contrast setting of white on black. Reversing the contrast is often the only change needed to enable an individual with a visual impairment to easily read on their phone or tablet.
Finally, there are free and low-cost apps for smartphones and tablets that can make them function like handheld video magnifiers. Two favorites are the Brighter and Bigger app and the Better Vision app, both of which are free.
Other technology advancements that have proven to be very helpful for both individuals with vision loss and those with normal vision are talking Global Positioning System (GPS) devices and navigation programs on smartphones. The author recommends these devices to older drivers in general, and drivers with visual impairment in particular. Drivers using a talking GPS device are freed from the distraction of looking for road signs, especially in more complicated driving environments.
With advancements such as adaptive cruise control, lane alert warnings, and cars that will park themselves already available, we can expect that continued advances in automobile technologies will allow all drivers to be safer behind the wheel.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018!
This is an exciting milestone for us, as we look back at the progress made in diagnosing and treating eye diseases and vision impairment since NEI was first established by Congress in 1968.
Our mission continues to be to protect and prolong vision. During our anniversary year, we will be sharing information on the accomplishments made in vision research and eye health over the decades with the research community and the broader public.
Our kick-off event will be an all-day symposium on Vision and the Brain, November 10, 2017, at the Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Speakers will include:
- Torsten Wiesel, Rockefeller University
- Michael Goldberg and Eric Kandel, Columbia University
- Marc Sommer, Duke University
- Michele Basso, University of California Los Angeles
- Okihide Hikosaka, Bruce Cumming, and Bob Wurtz, NEI
- William Newsome, Stanford University
- Douglas Munoz, Queens University (Canada);
- Tony Movshon, New York University
More information will be available at https://www.nei.nih.gov/NEIat50 in early May.
Remember that you are part of our story. If you have ideas to mark this celebration, please let us know. If you have interesting pictures, film, or video related to NEI-supported research over the years, please share them with us. You can contact Kristina Beaugh in NEI’s Communications Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) is preparing activities for Healthy Vision Month, an annual observance that kicks off in May. The goal is to educate people about the steps they can take to protect their vision and keep their eyes healthy and seeing their best. These steps include:
- Getting regular comprehensive dilated eye exams
- Living a healthy lifestyle
- Knowing your family’s eye health history
- Wearing sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays
- Protecting your eyes during recreational activities or household chores
The Healthy Vision Month website has many resources and materials available in both English and Spanish to help spread the word during May and throughout the year. Some include:
- Web buttons to post to your website or blog
- Videos (link is external) with tips on keeping your eyes healthy
- Animation (link is external) of a dilated eye exam from an eye care professional’s point of view
- Infocards and infographics to share through social media
- Posters to download and hang in your local library, grocery store, doctor’s office, and other community settings
We look forward to celebrating Healthy Vision Month with you!
With the growing number of older adults in the United States, eye disease and vision loss are major public health concerns. There are currently more than 40 million people age 65 and older in the United States, and that number is expected to double by 2050. As people age, their risk increases for eye diseases and conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye, glaucoma, and low vision. But vision loss doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of aging.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) Vision and Aging Program has developed resources to help spread the word that if eye diseases are detected and treated early, vision loss can often be prevented.
New to its collection of educational resources, NEHEP just released a Spanish version of its See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit, Cómo ver bien durante toda la vida, to address the need to increase awareness of eye health among older Hispanics/Latinos. This tool is useful to anyone working with older adults in community-based settings to convey science-based, easy-to-understand information about eye health, age-related eye conditions, comprehensive dilated eye exams, and how people can protect their vision as they age.
The toolkit includes a presenter’s guide and two modules that can be used separately for educational sessions or combined as a two-part series. Each module contains a PowerPoint presentation, a speaker’s guide, and participant handouts. The first module is titled La visión saludable y las enfermedades y condiciones de los ojos relacionadas con la edad (Healthy Vision and Age-Related Eye Diseases and Conditions), and the second module is titled Baja visión (Low Vision). The toolkit is available on NEHEP’s website and can be downloaded at no cost.
We’d like to thank the following organizations for their help in testing the toolkit with audiences and reviewing the content:
- Casa de Amigos de Texas (audience testing)
- EyeCare America (content review)
- Indiana University School of Optometry (content review)
- Lighthouse of Broward County (audience testing)
- National Association for Hispanic Elderly (content review)
- Unidad de Miami (audience testing)
- University of Texas at El Paso Department of Social Work (audience testing and content review)
To wrap up Low Vision Awareness Month 2017, the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the National Eye Health Education Program hosted a Twitter chat on February 28 using the hashtag #LowVisionChat. With 63 participants and 321 tweets, we were able to garner 2,253,260 impressions. The chat was so active that #LowVisionChat was a trending topic on Twitter!
Throughout Low Vision Awareness Month, NEI encouraged everyone to post resources for people with low vision using the hashtag #LowVision. There was a tremendous response. NEI will publish the list of print materials, videos, tools, tips, and more soon.
Thanks to all of our partners and friends who joined in and helped create this success!
In June 2015, the American Optometric Association (AOA) initiated the development of a clinical data registry—AOA MORE (“Measures and Outcomes Registry for Eyecare”). The AOA Board of Trustees directed the development of the registry in response to the growing emphasis on quality-reporting and measurements. AOA MORE better allows optometry, as a profession, to analyze clinical outcomes for the benefit of improving care over time. This can apply to glaucoma care, contact lens care, pediatric care, and more.
AOA MORE provides the ability to track outcomes that can be analyzed and then be improved upon by the profession. Thus far, AOA MORE has captured data from hundreds of doctors of optometry related to care for thousands of patients across the country. AOA looks forward to opportunities to engage the research community for the benefit of patient’s eye health. For more information on AOA MORE visit www.aoa.org/MORE or contact Kara Webb at email@example.com.
The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) has teamed with the Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company to create a new video, Dilating Drops: Patient Safety and Liability Risks, to highlight that patient safety is a critical component of quality eye health. It was produced with a generous grant provided by the American Academy of Ophthalmology Bruce E. Spivey, M.D., Fund for Risk Management Studies.
This 13-minute training video outlines the proper procedures for instilling eye drops in patients, including the documentation and critical patient education necessary for a safe procedure. It conveys critical information aimed at reducing the risk of liability to ophthalmic practices stemming from the instillation of eye drops.
Having proper procedures in place is the best way to ensure patient safety and to provide quality care. It is also important to have a documented policy showing that procedures are followed and that patients are properly educated.
“It is very important that the patient be informed of any restrictions on activity resulting from the medication which has been administered,” said JCAHPO President Eydie Miller-Ellis, M.D. “This may include restrictions on driving or the need to wear sunglasses in bright light following dilation.”
Vision affects nearly every aspect of life and can have impacts far beyond eye health. For this reason, education on all potential effects of the medication need to be discussed during a counseling session with the staff prior to instillation of the medication to the patient. This video, along with a checklist outlining the appropriate procedure, is available on the JCAHPO website.
The video is available as a public resource at no charge. It is highly recommended for all ophthalmic clinics as a tool for the entire eye health team’s education. The National Eye Health Education Program is another resource for patient education.
VisionAware™ offers new resources on dealing with crime or domestic violence for individuals with vision loss
Anyone can be a victim of crime or domestic violence. You can be of any age, race, class, culture, religion, occupation, or sexual orientation. Unfortunately, crime against people with disabilities, including vision loss, is inordinately high. This is a reality that must be addressed for individuals who are blind or visually impaired who want to live safely and independently.
Many people are confused about what domestic violence is, what causes it, and why the victim stays in the abusive relationship. Domestic violence is a pattern of intimidation, coercion, and violence. It includes everything the abuser has done in the past and the threat of what they will do in the future. Battering can be verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, or economic.
VisionAware™ has created a new series, Dealing with Crime or Domestic Violence As a Person with a Disability, to help people with visual impairments to prevent crime, protect themselves, and know what to do in the event of domestic abuse.
The new series provides information and resources on the following topics:
- Facts about crime against persons with disabilities
- Domestic violence and women with vision loss
- Personal stories about crime and domestic violence
- How self defense can help you stay safe
- What you can do to prevent identity theft
VisionAware™ is a program of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation. VisionAware™ provides free, easy-to-use information for adults with vision loss, their families, caregivers, healthcare providers, and social service professionals. Visit any of AFB’s family of websites for information about vision loss in all stages of life.
Reading is a simple pleasure for millions of people, but access to books is difficult for people with vision loss. The Lighthouse Guild and Bookshare® have partnered with the American Academy of Ophthalmology to establish a new program using the Spotlight Gateway app for the Apple® iPad, which expands access to a digital library designed for people with low vision.
“Reading should not be a privilege,” says Mark G. Ackermann, chief operating officer of Lighthouse Guild, the leading not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization. “We’re pleased to help break down barriers and open a world of possibilities to students who are visually impaired.”
Rebecca Alexander, an author, psychotherapist, fitness instructor, and extreme athlete who is almost completely blind and deaf due to a rare genetic disorder, agrees. “I am an avid reader, and I access the extensive Bookshare® library through the Spotlight Gateway app for iPad. It has changed my life. This is a wonderful program that helps students of all ages with low vision to live as fully and independently as possible.”
Bookshare® is the world’s largest online library for people who are blind, visually impaired, or have a physical disability or a learning disability that interferes with reading.
Why iPads? Because they include a range of built-in iOS accessibility features for blind and low-vision users, including VoiceOver, Zoom, Speak Screen, Display Accommodations, Dynamic Type, Magnifier, Siri, and Dictation.
Certification, distribution, and training
Ophthalmologists who are members of the American Academy of Ophthalmology are supporting this effort by certifying qualified students across the country for the program—part of the Academy’s effort to refer patients with low vision to services that lessen the impact of their vision loss and provide greater independence.
As part of the program (supported in part by a grant from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.), Lighthouse Guild will distribute a limited number of iPads to students through participating vision agencies. VisionServe Alliance member agencies will provide access to iPads for students outside New York City or Northern California.
Training sessions will be available at Lighthouse Guild in New York City and LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, and at participating vision agencies to help patients and their families navigate and use the library. Instructional videos are available for vision agencies and individuals at www.lighthouseguild.org/spotlightgateway.
The Think About Your Eyes campaign—a national public awareness initiative focused on educating consumers about the importance of eye health and annual comprehensive dilated eye exams—is celebrating a momentous year. The Vision Council’s VisionWatch market research team provided the campaign with final validated exam growth data for 2016. These data confirmed that more than 1.15 million comprehensive dilated eye exams can be attributed directly to Think About Your Eyes advertising—an increase from 828,000 in 2015.
With the understanding that the right messages and media can motivate the public to begin focusing on their vision, Think About Your Eyes is a proactive, diverse coalition working under The Vision Council, in partnership with the American Optometric Association. The goal of the campaign is to educate the public on the benefits of eye health and promote the importance of getting an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam.
Thanks to the support of The Vision Council and 19 other industry partner companies, Think About Your Eyes generated 1.3 billion consumer impressions through national advertising in 2016.
Current industry partners include Alcon, The Vision Council, American Optometric Association, All About Vision, GUNNAR Optiks, Jobson Optical Group, National Vision, Inc., SpecialEyes, SPY, Hilco, Walman Optical, Transitions, Shamir, Chemistrie Eyewear, Essilor, Luxottica Group, Eschenbach, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc., First Vision Media Group Inc., International Vision Expo, and WestGroupe.
For more information on Think About Your Eyes, visit www.thinkaboutyoureyes.com. For questions related to Think About Your Eyes and The Vision Council, please contact Maureen Beddis, The Vision Council’s Vice President of Marketing & Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prevent Blindness will hold the sixth annual Prevent Blindness Focus on Eye Health National Summit on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Summit will include a variety of presentations related to this year’s theme, “What’s in Sight?” In response to the recent release of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Report, “Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow,” the agenda will feature discussions around key pillars of public health such as health policy, surveillance, health promotion, and state/community programs.
Attendees of this free event will include patient advocates, national vision and eye health organizations, government representatives, and community-based organizations. Those unable to attend in person will have an opportunity to watch a live video stream of event presentations and follow the event on Twitter at #eyesummit.
During the event, Prevent Blindness will present the Jenny Pomeroy Award for Excellence in Vision and Public Health. The award is presented annually to an individual, team, or organization that has made significant contributions to the advancement of public health related to vision and eye health at the community, state, and/or national level. Last year’s recipient of the award was Bruce Moore, O.D., Marcus Professor of Pediatric Studies, New England College of Optometry.
To register or for more information about the Prevent Blindness Focus on Eye Health National Summit, please visit preventblindness.org/eyesummit or call 800-331-2020.
The Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington® (POB) works to improve and preserve sight by providing services, education, and advocacy in support of eye health and assistance in addressing visual impairments. Each year, POB screens more than 8,000 children for vision loss and strabismus and thousands of adults for glaucoma. POB provides affordable eyeglasses to thousands of low-income and homeless community members. The organization also operates a Low Vision Learning Center, which provides personalized vision rehabilitation to help individuals living with low vision retain their independence.
POB sponsors the Aging Eye Network, Macular Degeneration Network, and Stargardt’s Network, which provide free public programs and support groups. From its Children's Vision Screening program to its Eyeglasses Clinic and Low Vision Learning Center, POB is committed to educating members of the public on eye health and providing them with the resources they need to improve and preserve their sight.
The organization shares National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) information and resources at more than 10 free monthly seminars and meetings through its various networks. Seminar topics often coincide with health observance months and incorporate NEHEP campaign messages, infocards, posters, and handouts to educate community members, particularly those at high risk for eye health problems. POB also holds the annual Eye Run for POB, a 5K and fun run, featuring a Vision Health Fair with free vision screenings, information about local resources, and eye health booths distributing NEHEP materials.
POB celebrated its 81st anniversary on March 4 at the 2017 Night of Vision gala, where the organization gave this year’s Professional Service Award to William L. Rich III, M.D., F.A.C.S. Dr. Rich is the immediate past president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. POB’s Board of Trustees established the Professional Service Award in 1986 to be given annually to the person who best exemplifies the spirit of POB’s mission and its commitment to the community.
For more information on POB, visit www.youreyes.org.
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!