Celia Cruz and her husband Pedro Knight
In October 1995 Cuban-American singer Celia Cruz and her husband Pedro Knight joined ¡Ojo con su visión! (Watch Out for Your Vision), a new outreach program aimed at educating Hispanics about diabetic eye disease. The program is a major outreach effort established by the National Eye Health Program (NEHEP) of the National Eye Institute. Ms. Cruz and Mr. Knight were featured in a series of print, radio and television public service announcements encouraging Hispanics with diabetes to get dilated eye exams. Because “the queen of salsa music” was popular and respected in the community and her husband had diabetes, she was influential in raising awareness of that health problem.
Young girl, left, adjusts the focus on the slit lamp while her sister, age 4, volunteers as the youngest patient in the new Framingham Eye Study that opened on February 19, 1973.
Framingham Eye Study
One of the first epidemiological research projects supported by the NEI was the Framingham Eye Study. This extramural study examined the eyes of the survivors of the original Framingham Heart Study Cohort, begun in 1948. The vision researchers had access to extensive laboratory and physical examination data as well as family history information. Twenty-five years after the original start date, the surviving Framingham, Massachusetts cohort was given eye examinations. Conducted from 1973 to 1975, this was the first survey on the prevalence of visual disability and blindness in a well-defined population that had been followed for a prolonged period of time.
Read journal article: The Framingham Eye Study. I. Outline and major prevalence findings. Am J Epidemiol. 1977 Jul;106(1):17-32. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/106/1/17.short
Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in working-age adults, ages 20-74. Without treatment 50 percent of those with proliferative diabetic retinopathy will be blind within 5 years. Over the last 4 decades the National Eye Institute has supported landmark multicenter randomized clinical trials for diabetic retinopathy. Implementation of the results from these clinical trials has markedly reduced the risk of blindness in people with diabetes. These landmark clinical trials included the Diabetic Retinopathy Study (DRS), Diabetic Retinopathy Vitrectomy Study (DRVS), and Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS). The DRS, the first randomized to be supported by the NEI, began enrollment in 1972.
The results of these three studies have served as the standard of care for people with diabetes. Anti-VEGF treatment has now been shown to be the most effective treatment for eyes with clinically significant macular edema. It is also being evaluated for treatment of proliferative diabetic retinopathy. With early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up, the risk of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be reduced by 95 percent.
Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study (AGIS)
Sixteen years ago the NEI released results from the Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study (AGIS), a randomized clinical trial designed to determine which of two advanced glaucoma surgical treatment programs better preserves vision. The study found that blacks with advanced glaucoma benefit more from a regimen that begins with laser surgery and whites benefit more from one that begins with an operation called a trabeculectomy. Read the archived press release issued in 1998.
Los Angeles Latino Eye Study
It’s been 10 years since results from the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES) appeared in the June, July and August 2004 issues of the journal Ophthalmology. Researchers found that Latinos had high rates of diabetic retinopathy, an eye complication of diabetes; and open-angle glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve. The researchers noted that many study participants did not know they had an eye disease.
LALES, is the largest, most comprehensive epidemiological analysis of visual impairment in Latinos conducted in the U.S. It was funded by the NEI and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) another component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Read more about the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study.
NEI continues to promote eye health among Hispanics/Latinos through its National Eye Health Education Program. Learn about the ¡Ojo con su visión! Program.
The First Healthy Vision Month
The First Healthy Vision Month
NEI first celebrated Healthy Vision Month in 2003. The observance was established as a national eye health program devoted to promote the vision objectives of Healthy People 2010.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthy People identified the most significant preventable threats to health, and established national goals to reduce these threats. For the first time, vision objectives were included in Healthy People 2010 effort. The chapter on vision addressed visual impairment due to eye disease and refractive error; regular eye examinations for children and adults; vision screening for pre-school children; injury prevention; and vision rehabilitation. Most states and many localities used the Healthy People framework to guide local health policies and programs.
The focus for Healthy Vision Month 2003 was reducing blindness and visual impairment in children and adolescents (Objective 28-4). The goal was to increase awareness of the importance of protecting and preserving vision in those age 17 and under.
Learn about the current Healthy Vision Month program.
Actress Angela Lansbury celebrates NEI’s 25th Anniversary with Dr. Kupfer (Left) and Mr. Wasserman (Right).
April 11, 1994—Actress Angela Lansbury celebrates NEI’s 25th Anniversary with Dr. Carl Kupfer and Research to Prevent Blindness chairman Lew R. Wasserman, at the opening of the NEI traveling exhibit VISION at Union Station in Washington, DC. Dr. Kupfer was NEI director from 1970-2000.
Designed for audiences of all ages, the 2,000-square-foot exhibit told the story of how the eye and brain work together to create vision and how researchers develop ways to protect our sight. The exhibit included 10 interactive modules and a display of antique eyeglasses, eye charts, and Army Signal Corps binoculars.
VISION was on tour from 1993 to 2007. The exhibit visited 33 museums in 20 cities and the District of Columbia. In December 2007, NEI ended the VISION tour and donated the exhibit to Discovery Station in Hagerstown, Maryland.
June standing next to a poster featuring her face from more than 20 years ago.
Some Messages are Timeless!
On a recent doctor visit, June was stunned to see the poster featuring her face. She had participated in the National Eye Institute photo shoot more than 20 years ago! The photos were used to create the original set of public awareness materials for the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP), launched in 1991. Today, we are still encouraging people with diabetes to get dilated eye exams. Early diagnosis and timely treatment is still the best way to prevent vision loss.
Premature infants are at high risk for developing retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
On February 12, 1988 NEI issued its first clinical alert on findings from the Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity (CRYO-ROP) study. The study found that briefly freezing a portion of the eye’s surface can protect many premature infants against blindness from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding disorder of very low birth-weight infants. ROP affects the developing blood vessels of the retina, causing them to grow and branch excessively, leading to bleeding, scarring or retinal detachment. The alert was mailed to 2,300 pediatric ophthalmologists, retinal specialists, neonatologists, and directors of neonatal intensive care centers in the United States.
Catch up on past vision-related events, seminars, and lectures from 2002-2013. Browse the video archive.
NEI was established as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on August 16, 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Public Law 90-489. The new NIH institute was the first government organization solely dedicated to research on human visual diseases and disorders. NEI officially began operations on December 26, 1968. Read more about NEI history.