In this issue:
Although we are only in the middle of summer, it’s not too early to start thinking about all the upcoming observances this fall that provide opportunities to promote eye health—Healthy Aging Month in September, Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15‒October 15), World Sight Day (October 8), National Diabetes Month, and Native American Heritage Month, both celebrated in November.
Older adults, Hispanics/Latinos, African Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and people with diabetes are at higher risk of vision loss and blindness from diseases like diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. Fortunately, through early detection, treatment, and appropriate follow-up care, visual impairment and blindness can often be prevented.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) is committed to raising awareness about eye health and underscoring the importance of comprehensive dilated eye exams. Educating the public, especially those at higher risk, and health and community professionals about eye disease is a crucial component of successful public health outreach. NEHEP provides a variety of science-based educational resources that can be used during observance months and throughout the year to help people at higher risk for vision loss protect their sight.
Our new tip sheet, Educating American Indians/Alaska Natives about Diabetic Eye Disease, encourages community health representatives and other health professionals to talk about the vision complications of diabetes during talking circles or powwows. Our infographics and infocards are designed to be used across social media outlets to provide quick and important information about various eye diseases and conditions. Teaching tools like our See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit, Spanish-language Keep Vision In Your Future: Glaucoma Toolkit, and Diabetic Eye Disease: An Educator’s Guide, among others, can be used to educate groups of people at community locations like clinics, churches, or senior centers about dilated eye exams, eye diseases, and living with low vision. Our videos and animations can be shared on your websites, social media platforms, or on TVs in patient waiting rooms to highlight how certain eye diseases affect the eyes or what occurs during a dilated eye exam.
In addition to the wide variety of resources you’ll find on the NEHEP website, our Partnership organizations also offer educational materials you can use and events you can get involved in to help raise awareness about eye health. In this issue of Outlook you will find many articles describing some of the resources available to you as well as examples of how NEHEP partners are using our materials to complement their own outreach efforts.
NEHEP and the National Eye Institute (NEI) are always looking for ways to bring news about vision research and eye health education to you. If you aren’t already, follow us on Twitter at @NEHEP and @NatEyeInstitute, on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and now, LinkedIn. We also encourage you to visit the NEI website frequently because as you’ll read in the article, The National Eye Institute Website: What’s New?, we are continuously working on enhancing the experience of our visitors. This includes redesigning the NEHEP pages, which is underway. Soon NEHEP resources, research, and information will be even easier to access and to share. Stay tuned!
Lastly, we want to extend our sincerest gratitude to Drs. Edwin Marshall and Lori Grover for all of their time, energy, and enthusiasm while serving on the NEHEP Planning Committee. They will be joining other past NEHEP Planning Committee members and chairs and renowned experts on the review committee for the Institute of Medicine’s new consensus study, Public Health Approaches to Reduce Vision Impairment and Promote Eye Health. The study, which will be completed at the end of summer 2016, will examine core principles and public health strategies to reduce visual impairment and promote eye health in the United States. This is an exciting time for everyone in the vision community and this report will surely have a great impact on elevating eye and vision health as a national public health priority.
Driving Challenges Faced by Individuals With Vision Loss
By: Mark Wilkinson, O.D., NEHEP Planning Committee; Chair of the Low Vision Subcommittee
People of all ages often view driving as the key to independence. Individuals with vision loss are no exception. Three groups of people with vision loss who wish to acquire or maintain the privilege of driving include teenagers with a congenital or acquired visual impairment who have never driven, adults with the same who have never driven, and adults with an acquired visual impairment who have driven in the past but may lose their license because of their vision loss. However, vision standards for driving vary from state to state, and this variation persists despite decades of research demonstrating that there are no absolute cutoff criteria in visual acuity or peripheral vision for safe versus unsafe driving. The fact that states have variable standards results in people with visual impairments not being able to be licensed in some states, including perhaps their own, while being able to be licensed in a neighboring state. Clearly, the ability of these individuals to safely operate a motor vehicle does not change when they cross a state line. Yet, to maintain at least some driving privileges, they may find themselves having to move to a different state.
It is well known that many older drivers modify their driving norms to help keep themselves and others safe. For example, many older drivers voluntarily reduce or stop driving at night, in hazardous weather conditions, or on super highways. By limiting their driving, older drivers, particularly those with visual impairments, are able to continue operating their automobiles safely and efficiently in spite of reduced vision. This is important, considering that the vast majority of older adults live in the suburbs or in rural areas where automobiles are required for transportation.
Maximizing Visual Capabilities
It is important for all individuals, but particularly for drivers who are visually impaired, to make sure their spectacle correction is up-to-date. Contrast enhancement and glare control with filtering lenses can also be of great benefit. Most drivers have experienced driving into the glare of the sun, while looking through a dirty windshield. Although wearing sunglasses and keeping windshields clean are not mandatory, they certainly help drivers see more easily and feel more comfortable when driving.
Maximizing Visual Attention
Research has found that inattention blindness and the “cost of switching” contribute to or directly cause automobile mishaps. Inattention blindness refers to when a person’s attention to one activity undermines his or her attention to other activities. For example, when drivers focus on directional signs, their attention is not on what is happening on the road in front of them. The cost of switching refers to the time it takes a person to switch attention between different activities. A common example that causes driving mishaps is when drivers text while driving. When people focus on texting while driving, their response to the traffic around them is delayed.
Useful Field of View testing research has shown that the time it takes a person to process visual information, especially the complicated visual environment experienced each time a person drives, increases with age. With this in mind, decreasing or eliminating the time it takes older drivers or drivers with visual impairments to look for and visually process signage should help them maintain their concentration on the road ahead and the traffic around them.
A simple way to reduce or eliminate the need to look for directional signage is with the use of a Global Positioning System (GPS) device that uses spoken directions. Older drivers and drivers with visual impairments in particular should consider using a GPS device with spoken directions so that they are freed from the distraction of looking for/at road signs and can keep their attention on the traffic around them.
Finally, with the technology currently available in cars, such as adaptive cruise control and lane alert warnings, it is expected that all drivers will be safer behind the wheel.
A good driver is someone who has the ability to perceive change in a rapidly changing environment; the mental ability to judge and react to this information quickly and appropriately; and the motor ability to execute these decisions, along with the skills to compensate for some loss of ability in the other areas. Additionally, a driver’s familiarity with the driving environment and his or her past driving record should be taken into account when considering limiting driving activities or retiring from driving altogether.
For many drivers with vision loss, a limited driver’s license that allows them to drive during daylight hours, within a restricted radius of their home, and at lower rates of speed may be all they desire. However, there are times when an individual will need to retire from driving altogether because of vision loss or a combination of vision and cognitive changes. When this time comes, the individual needs to understand that retiring from driving is for his or her safety and the safety of others.
Finally, it is well known that vision loss in general, as well as the loss of driving privileges, can lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression. Fortunately, many things can enhance the functional abilities of individuals with vision loss. To learn about available resources for individuals with vision loss, visit the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) Low Vision Education Program Web page.
September is Healthy Aging Month, a perfect time to remind people that maintaining healthy vision is part of aging well. Eye health is a critical component of aging well and can have a significant impact on a person’s independence, productivity, and quality of life. There are many things we can do to raise eye health awareness among our aging communities. The Vision and Aging Program of the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) focuses on the eye health education needs of adults ages 50 and older and stresses the importance of comprehensive dilated eye exams, which can detect many age-related eye diseases early, before noticeable symptoms occur.
Research has shown that older adults value their vision but have limited knowledge about age-related eye diseases and conditions and the critical role regular comprehensive dilated eye exams play in preserving sight. Age is a major risk factor in most eye diseases and conditions affecting older adults including age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye, glaucoma, and low vision.
To address the growing need for more eye health information, NEHEP developed an educational initiative focused on raising awareness among older Americans about their aging eyes. The NEHEP Vision and Aging Program provides health, social service, and community professionals with science-based, easy-to-understand tools and resources that can be used in community settings to educate older adults about eye health and maintaining healthy vision as they age and remind them that vision loss is not an inevitable part of aging.
The See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit is an online resource containing three modules that can be used individually or as a series to conduct educational workshops. Each includes a PowerPoint presentation; a speaker’s guide, with detailed talking points; educational handouts; promotional announcements; and evaluation forms among other materials. No previous knowledge of eye health is needed. Each module describes the importance of comprehensive dilated eye exams and steps older adults can take to protect their vision. Each module also gives an overview of common age-related eye diseases and conditions, questions to ask an eye care professional, and information on where to find financial assistance for eye care, if needed.
In addition to the See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit, NEHEP offers a variety of educational resources including a Medicare benefit card, an Aging and Your Eyes infographic, an Aging and Eye Health infographic, infocards, eye health videos, a webinar on Educating Older Americans About Their Aging Eyes, a Vision and Aging Pinterest board, a Living with Low Vision video, and more. Visit the NEHEP website to learn about other eye health education resources and ideas on how to use them in your community. We also invite you to share with NEHEP how you are educating older adults about eye health and let us know how we can support these efforts.
“Excellent.” “Fantastic.” “Interesting and well done.” These comments were just a few that participants used to describe two training workshops the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) gave in April for health educators from the Puerto Rico Primary Health Care Association (PRPHCA), a non-profit organization based in San Juan that connects, represents, and provides support to the Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in Puerto Rico. The centers the PRPHCA serves are part of Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, designated to serve medically underserved populations. They are located in areas with a high density of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, homeless persons, and residents of public housing.
NEHEP presented two workshops, Diabetes and Healthy Eyes Toolkit: Tools for Health Educators and Learning To Use the Glaucoma Toolkit: Caring for Our Eyes So That We Can Continue To See the Future. The trainings took place at the PRPHCA offices in San Juan, and its participants represented 29 of the 53 FQHCs located in Puerto Rico.
The purpose of the workshops was to increase health educators’ knowledge of eye diseases, specifically diabetic eye disease and glaucoma, share NEHEP resources, and create awareness of Spanish-language resources for eye health education.
In a morning workshop on the diabetes toolkit, participants learned about diabetes and diabetic eye disease, viewed a video of a dilated eye exam, conducted exercises to become familiar with the toolkit, and brainstormed ways to use the toolkit in their centers.
The afternoon workshop trained participants to use the newly adapted Glaucoma Toolkit in Spanish in their communities. Workshop participants received an overview of glaucoma, conducted exercises to learn about the parts of the eye, explored the toolkit, and presented their findings to the group.
At the end of the day, the educators gave the workshops the highest rating (5) across all six evaluation categories, which included “Effective Content Delivery,” and “Applicable Knowledge to Daily Job.”
“The materials are excellent for our patients,” said one participant.
NEHEP plans to follow up with PRPHCA in three to six months to see how many centers have replicated the trainings, and will keep the center informed about new NEHEP Spanish-language resources.
Since the National Eye Institute (NEI) launched its new responsive website design last November, we’ve continued to make changes that we hope will enhance the experiences of our web visitors. “It’s never over,” said Kym Collins-Lee, NEI website manager. “As soon as we add a new function or content, we’re looking for the next thing. The process is dynamic and helps keep our online presence exciting.”
In our health information section, you will find new topics including color blindness, retinitis pigmentosa, and Stargardt disease. NEI’s team of science writers is always working on covering more topics and enhancing existing content. We’ve also been highlighting more news from NEI grantees because it’s important to share information on findings from research that NEI is supporting.
Look for the “Listen” button on our website text pages as well. We’ve expanded the places where you can find this function if you prefer to have web content read out loud. The listen function should be helpful to our audiences with visual impairments and other limitations.
In addition to the website, we offer visitors a variety of ways to connect with us. We’ve added a social media sharing tool that appears on every page. The tool allows you to easily share content via your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and e-mail accounts. “Our goal is to get eye health messages out to the public,” remarked Neyal Ammary-Risch, director of the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP). “We’re continually looking for ways to help organizations and individuals help us with that. And, we’re really excited that the NEHEP pages are currently undergoing a redesign, which will allow for easier access to all of our great eye health resources.”
Stay tuned. There’s more to come! If you have comments or suggestions, please send a message to Kym Collins-Lee at email@example.com.
Some of the most common eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, involve damage to the retina and optic nerve. Both of these tissues are extensions of the brain. And similar to the case for brain diseases, few options exist to repair these tissues when they are damaged.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) has developed the Audacious Goal to restore vision by regenerating photoreceptors in the retina and retinal ganglion cells that carry signals from the photoreceptors to the brain.
NEI began this initiative by posing a challenge to the nation under the America COMPETES Act and asked all Americans to submit their best ideas for the future of vision research. NEI received nearly 550 submissions, and with expert input, carefully selected this Audacious Goal.
Recently, NEI created a new animation that explains diseases of the retina and optic nerve—and how the Audacious Goals Initiative will further explore the biology of these diseases to develop groundbreaking new therapies. It covers:
- How the retina and optic nerve work,
- What happens to vision when the retina and optic nerve break down, and
- Possible solutions to retinal and optic nerve damage.
We invite you to share this video widely—with your colleagues, family, friends, and social media networks—so they can see what this goal means and how achieving it could have immense impact for people with vision loss. Learn more about the Audacious Goals Initiative at www.nei.nih.gov/audacious.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) has added seven new videos to its Ask a Scientist video series. In this online series, children ask NEI scientists about topics in vision science, such as science careers, animal eyes, what our eyes do while we sleep, and how eye glasses work. The videos are a fun way to help kids learn about their eyes and about careers in science and vision. These videos, produced by NEI, are the latest addition to the Educational Resources for Children Web page. The Web page also has tips for elementary and middle school students on how to protect their eyes during sports and other potentially hazardous activities.
We encourage you to share all 11 of the Ask a Scientist videos with kids, teachers, parents, coaches, and healthcare professionals. Educators can include these videos in their classroom activities, as homework assignments, or can show them at after-school programs and community activities for kids.
Since 2012, the Duke Eye Center has offered a series of seminars for patients and families, featuring Eye Center faculty and resources from the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP).
Each seminar is one hour, consisting of a 30-minute formal presentation by a Duke Eye Center faculty member, followed by an open question-and-answer session for the remaining time. The seminars have taken place at the main Eye Center location in Durham, at the Duke Raleigh Hospital, and at satellite locations in Winston-Salem and Research Triangle Park. The Eye Center has also recently partnered with the Durham Center for Senior Living to host seminars in downtown Durham in 2015.
The seminars are offered approximately five times per year and discuss topics important for ophthalmology patients and families, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, eyelid problems, dry eye, corneal transplants, and low vision. Basic information on new and novel treatments is covered during the formal presentation to interest both the experienced eye patient and the curious community member. The question-and-answer session that follows allows the speaker to tailor the presentation to the participants’ interests. Most participants are local residents, but people from neighboring states also attend.
This seminar series has been warmly received, with participants appreciating both the structured (formal presentation) and unstructured (question-and-answer) components. To complement the presentation, patients are provided with NEHEP educational materials, most recently with the Glaucoma Eye-Q Test and a glaucoma infographic, as well as materials from other organizations, like the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health is excited to announce the first annual Go4Life Month, set for this September. In collaboration with the White House Conference on Aging, NIA aims to encourage older adults nationwide to incorporate exercise into their daily lives with the theme Be Active Every Day!
NIA invites you to use a variety of free resources, including:
- Information on how to participate in Go4Life Month.
- Tools to help you plan a Go4Life Month event.
- Social media posts on Go4Life Month to share.
The Go4Life campaign encourages older adults to be more physically active to improve their health. Go4Life has sample exercises especially designed for older adults and motivational tools to help them find activities they enjoy, start exercising, and keep going. Go4Life even offers a tip sheet on Exercise for People with Low Vision.
In 2006, Lighthouse Guild created a national telephonic support (tele-support) network to serve parents of children with eye disease and associated vision impairment. The network puts parents of children with similar conditions in regular contact with one another in an educational and supportive environment.
Parents of infants and children with a vision disorder or vision impairment face unique challenges in caring for and supporting their child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual growth. Parents are often overwhelmed by trying to ensure their children receive the proper medical treatment as well as the appropriate stimulation necessary for physical and cognitive development.
Feelings of isolation are common among parents of children with vision impairment, especially when they encounter difficulty in getting answers to specific questions regarding their child’s specific medical and vision condition. This tends to be especially true among parents living in rural and suburban regions, where appropriate support groups and resource centers are less likely to exist compared with major metropolitan areas.
However, tele-support groups can help parents receive the information and resources they need to help their child achieve his or her potential. Tele-support groups can also help parents get the emotional support they need.
Key program concepts include professional oversight, specialized information presented by optometrists and ophthalmologists, and a toll-free hotline. There are currently nine tele-support groups meeting on a weekly basis, as well as a group for legally blind teenagers planning to attend college. Each group is facilitated by a social worker and includes the following topics:
- Cortical visual impairment
- Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)
- Leber congenital amaurosis
- Autism and blindness
- Hermanski–Pudlak syndrome (in English)
- Hermanski–Pudlak syndrome (in Spanish)
- CHARGE Syndrome
- Chediak–Higashi syndrome
The mother of a child with ROP said, “I joined the group when my son was little. I spoke to other moms, and they made their situation sound normal, which was helpful because we would take my son to the playground, and there was no sitting and watching him play. I was standing under the jungle gym, helping him climb, hoping he didn’t fall and break his neck. And to hear other moms say they’re doing the same, made me think, ‘Oh gosh, I’m not the only one out there. I may be the only one in my neighborhood, but I’m not the only one out there.’ And that gives a parent such peace of mind, and that’s what the phone group offered me then and still does.”
To learn more about the tele-support network offered by the Lighthouse Guild, contact Susan LaVenture, director of the National Tele-Support Network for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments at 1–800–562–6265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has webinars that are now available on the Training Finder Real-Time Affiliate Integrated Network (TRAIN). You can access recordings of NDEP webinars through TRAIN, maintain a record of your participation in NDEP activities, and download certificates of participation. The following webinars are available:
- Culturally-competent Health Provider Communication: Insights from Research with Chinese, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Island Diabetes Patients
- Diabetes and Nutrition in the Latino Community
- Living a Balanced Life with Diabetes Toolkit
- Partners in Health. Engaging Faith Communities in Diabetes Prevention and Management
The National Alliance for Hispanic Health is celebrating the ninth year of its signature program, ¡Vive tu vida! Get Up! Get Moving! ® (GUGM), and invites you and your partners to attend and promote it to all community members interested in health and fitness.
GUGM is the nation’s largest annual event series promoting healthy lifestyles in Hispanic communities in the country, and provides opportunities to exercise, learn healthy eating habits, and receive free health screenings. GUGM events include activity stations for soccer, tennis, baseball, basketball, dance, aerobics, yoga, and zumba and healthy snacks, prize drawings, and dance performances that celebrate Hispanic culture. These fun and exciting family events are also free from tobacco, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverage, and fast food sponsors. GUGM events are driven by local needs, organized by leading Hispanic organizations in the community, and supported by long-term national partners and more than 400 community organizations and 1,000 volunteers each year.
So far in 2015, GUGM events have been held in Los Lunas, NM (outside Albuquerque); Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Kennett Square, PA (outside Philadelphia); Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; Phoenix, AZ; Brownsville, TX; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Over the past eight years, a total of 143,381 people have attended GUGM events where 61,502 child and adults immunizations and other health services were provided free of charge, including screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose, HIV and other STIs, and kidney function, and mammograms, dental exams, and eye exams. The next two GUGM events are taking place on September 12, 2015, in San Diego, CA, and Dallas, TX.
Additional services at GUGM events have included nutrition education and instruction on using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, free fresh fruit and vegetable distribution to families through innovative partnerships with local food banks, children’s book distributions in partnership with community reading programs, and certified instruction to enroll in health insurance plans through the Marketplace, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The Alliance and the Healthy Americas Foundation present the GUGM series, along with national supporter, Newman’s Own Foundation; national media partner, Univision Communication’s Salud es vida ¡Entérate!; and national partners, the Embassy of Mexico and the United States Tennis Association. To learn more about the nearest GUGM event near you and how to get involved, visit www.getupgetmoving.org, or call 1‒866‒783‒2645.
The culturally and historically rich city of New Orleans, LA, will host Academy 2015 New Orleans, the annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry on October 7‒10, 2015. The Academy meeting offers a wide array of clinically relevant continuing education courses and cutting-edge research in the clinical and vision sciences. Attendees can choose from more than 250 hours of lectures and workshops, 16 section and special interest group symposia, hundreds of scientific papers and posters, and social events.
On October 7, the plenary session, “Today’s Research, Tomorrow’s Practice®: Recognizing and Treating Ocular Melanomas,” will feature the world-renowned team of Carol Shields, M.D., and Jerry Shields, M.D., who head the Oncology Service at Wills Eye Hospital. This service is the largest eye cancer center in the country and has helped Wills Eye Hospital achieve its prestigious ranking each year among the top eye centers in the country. The group delivers unique radiotherapy and chemotherapy to a variety of eye tumors for patients from all parts of the world. The Shields team has authored more than nine textbooks, 300 chapters in textbooks, and 1,000 original peer-reviewed articles. Both speakers have received numerous awards, with Jerry having received the Academy’s highest honor, the 2014 American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Laureate Award.
The first-ever joint symposium of the American Academy of Optometry and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, titled “Amblyopia and Beyond: Evidence-Based Pediatric Eye Care,” is scheduled to take place on October 9, with the identical program to be repeated at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting in Las Vegas in November. Evidence-based pediatric eye care will be addressed by Donald Mutti, O.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.O.; Bruce Moore, O.D., F.A.A.O.; Susan Cotter, O.D., M.S., F.A.A.O.; and American Academy of Ophthalmology representatives Jonathan Holmes, M.D., Mary Lou Collins, M.D., and Jean Ramsey, M.D. This is the first effort by these two organizations to work together to better prepare and support their members in delivering the highest quality eye care.
For more information, visit http://www.aaopt.org/regsite.
Although 65 percent of American adults see a pair of shades as a fashion accessory, sunglasses are also a critical health necessity. Many Americans are still unaware of the health risk they take when going outside without protecting their eyes against ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In fact, 26 percent of adults rarely or never wear sunglasses when going outside.
And it's not just the bright summertime sun that puts people at risk. Every day—whether it’s sunny or cloudy, summer or winter—UV rays can damage eyes in profound ways, making protective eyewear all the more important.
Short-term UV exposure can leave eyes bloodshot, swollen, or hypersensitive to light. Longer term exposure can accelerate serious eye health problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration, and even cancer of the eye and surrounding skin.
With the release of its new report, Protection for the Naked Eye: Sunglasses as a Health Necessity, The Vision Council is encouraging people to wear sunglasses and know about the serious eye risks from exposure to UV rays.
Serving as the global voice for vision care products and services, The Vision Council represents the manufacturers and suppliers of the optical industry through education, advocacy, and consumer outreach. By sharing the latest in eyewear trends, advances in technology, and advice from eyewear experts, The Vision Council serves as a resource to the public, looking to learn more about options in eyeglasses and sunglasses.
The Vision Council’s report and other UV-protection information can be found at www.thevisioncouncil.org/2015UV. For more information, contact Jessica Lutz, marketing and communications manager, at email@example.com.
Families and physicians have a new tool in the fight against falls—a comprehensive prevention program developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that reduces both falls and resulting use of long-term care such as nursing homes.
The prevention program, which includes clinical in-home assessments of health, physical functioning, falls history, home environment, and medications to create customized recommendations, was developed by HHS based on the research evidence on risk factors and interventions. Using a randomized control trial, the program was tested among long-term care insurance policy holders age 75 and older to determine whether the intervention was effective and, if so, the impact on long-term care utilization.
The study found that the program led to significantly lower rates of falls over a one-year study period. Those who received the intervention had a 13 percent lower rate of falls and an 11 percent reduction in risk of falling compared to the control group. Participants also had a significantly lower rate of injurious falls. Long-term care insurance claims were 33 percent lower over a three-year period. The intervention, which cost $500 per person to administer, saved $838 per person.
Falls, which happen to 1 in 3 people age 65 and over every year, can cause pain, suffering, and death; they cost an estimated $35 billion in health care spending in 2014. They are a leading risk factor for needing long-term care at home or in a nursing facility. Given the impact of falls, findings from the HHS-funded study give hope for reducing the rate of falls among the growing population of older adults.
“While falls are preventable, we need to intervene at the right time in a way that is comprehensive and yet individually tailored,” said Richard Frank, Ph.D., the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS, whose office funded the study. “Preventing falls helps everyone—the older person, [his or her] family, and the health and long-term care systems. And this study shows that by investing in falls prevention, we can reduce long-term care use and spending.”
The risk factors for a fall include fear of falling, gait and balance problems, certain medications, clutter in the home, and some health conditions. Few interventions have taken a comprehensive approach to address all of the risk factors through one program.
Although this study focused on the rate of falls and long-term care utilization and costs, future research will examine the impact of the intervention on health care utilization and costs. “We expect to see a similar or greater return on investment in terms of health care costs,” added Frank.
The 2015 White House Conference on Aging, in partnership with the National Council on Aging, recently convened a Falls Prevention Summit to call attention to the critical role of falls prevention in healthy aging and to provide opportunities for older Americans and stakeholders to share their views and ideas on this important issue. More information about the intervention and the study design are available at http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/reports/fallexpfr.htm.
Earlier this year, Prevent Blindness teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office on Smoking and Health for its annual Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) campaign to educate the public on the dangerous effects smoking can have on vision.
According to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, smoking can cause serious eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in people ages 65 and older, and cataract, the leading cause of blindness in the world. In addition, people with diabetes who smoke are at higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
To help eye care and public health professionals support their patients and clients in becoming healthier and smoke free, the CDC has just launched a new Web page with free materials and resources in both English and Spanish.
This website contains a variety of materials, including 1–800–QUIT–NOW notepads, the “Reasons to Quit” handout for patients/clients, and downloadable posters. The Tips campaign website also includes videos and a Quit Guide to inspire and help patients. In the first year of CDC’s campaign alone, 1.6 million smokers were inspired by the campaign to quit.
For more information on the Tips program or its materials, please contact Shelley Hammond at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional materials are available from Prevent Blindness at http://www..preventblindness.org/smoking and from the National Eye Health Education Program on its Smoking and Eyes Pinterest board.
The Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry recently celebrated its 25th anniversary of offering training in all clinical areas, including primary care and specialties, such as binocular disorders, contact lenses, low vision, ocular disease, geriatrics, pediatrics, and refractive surgery.
Since 2007, Nova has been offering courses in community optometry outreach, which focuses on health promotion, disease prevention, understanding determinants of disease, and how to conduct education planning. At the end of the course, students must use what they’ve learned and design a community outreach campaign, determining which communities need resources and how to get them to the community successfully. The curriculum uses appropriate National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) materials, including the Diabetes and Healthy Eyes Toolkit and Keep Vision in Your Future: Glaucoma Toolkit.
The students are “very appreciative” of the toolkit materials, says Dr. Janet Leasher, O.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.O, associate professor and director of community outreach at Nova. Students think the speaker’s guides, videos, fact sheets, and quizzes are “wonderful.”
Students use these NEHEP materials as part of community outreach in the Lifelong Learning Institute, which offers programs in different locations around south Florida to older adults who are unable to get to the on-campus location. For example, second year optometry students and faculty delivered glaucoma awareness information at the institute and used NEHEP materials, such as infographics, booklets and brochures, and quizzes, which the seniors really enjoyed.
Using NEHEP resources for Lifelong Learning programs in community outreach allows Nova to “embrace what the students have done in class” and bridge the gap between the classroom and the community, Leasher explains. “By teaching students how to use the resources in local communities, Nova is having a broad-reaching impact as students then take this knowledge into different parts of the country,” she says.
For more information on the College of Optometry, visit http://optometry.nova.edu/.
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!