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:
All health professionals, whether they are medical or social-service providers, should be aware of the damaging impact of low vision. Immense frustration and even depression can grow out of difficulty performing everyday activities such as reading, writing, or getting around independently. Health professionals should also know that vision rehabilitation services are available to help people with low vision make the most of the capabilities they do have.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) Low Vision Education Program is designed to promote awareness of vision rehabilitation services. The program website provides a variety of resources and includes links to video testimonials about how devices and services have helped individuals with low vision continue to live independently.
NEHEP recently issued a new booklet, Living With Low Vision: What You Should Know, with a complementary DVD featuring patient stories to help people with low vision and their loved ones learn about how they can benefit from vision rehabilitation services and how to seek help from specialists. Another low vision video approaches health professionals as the target audience and emphasizes the important role they play in referring patients with vision loss to rehabilitation services.
The Low Vision Module of the NEHEP See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit is another resource that health and community professionals can use to educate people about low vision, to explain how it is diagnosed, and to outline options available to help people enhance their quality of life. The module includes a PowerPoint presentation, speaker’s guide, handouts and more. I encourage you to take a look at all of these resources available from NEHEP and to join our efforts to raise awareness about low vision.
I also want to point out that May is Healthy Vision Month, an annual observance sponsored by the National Eye Institute that presents an opportunity to promote the importance of comprehensive dilated eye exams in maintaining good eye health. 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.
Please contact us to let us know about your efforts in raising awareness regarding low vision or about how you plan to celebrate Healthy Vision Month. 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
Low vision is defined as a visual impairment that is not corrected by standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery and that interferes with the ability to perform everyday activities. The National Eye Institute (NEI) estimates that low vision affects 3 million Americans ages 40 and older. This figure is projected to reach 4.5 million by the year 2030. Most people with low vision develop it because of eye diseases and health conditions like macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma, and diabetes. While vision that’s lost usually cannot be restored, many people can make the most of the vision they have.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) Low Vision Education Program offers resources that provide people with information about vision rehabilitation services and how they can live independently with low vision. NEHEP now has a new booklet available, Living with Low Vision: What You Should Know, to help people with vision loss and their families and friends better understand low vision and what types of services are available to them. It describes where to find help and how to live safely and independently. The booklet includes a companion DVD, Living with Low Vision: Stories of Hope and Independence. This DVD showcases people living with low vision and how they use assistive devices and rehabilitation services to maintain their quality of life. You can order or download this booklet and watch the DVD at http://www.nei.nih.gov/lowvision.
NEHEP also has a Low Vision Education Module available as part of its Vision and Aging Program. This online module can be downloaded and used to give presentations about low vision at various sites throughout your community. It includes a PowerPoint presentation, speaker’s guide, participant handouts, and more.
There are many other ways you can increase awareness about the benefits of vision rehabilitation services for people with low vision. Consider the following strategies:
- Distribute eye health materials in places where children, adults, and their families and caregivers gather. Help inform people about low vision rehabilitation services and devices.
- Enlarge print PSAs to use as posters and display in waiting areas at health centers, clinics, hospitals, community centers, and libraries. Use the print PSAs in your organizational publications.
- Display information about low vision and vision rehabilitation after faith services or at social events. Demonstrate visual and adaptive devices at these events.
- Arrange for your parks and recreation department to provide lighting for playing fields so that adults and children with low vision can exercise and play safely. Have volunteers available to aid people who need assistance.
- Ask your state agency that serves the visually impaired or your local vision rehabilitation agency to suggest a spokesperson who can give a speech at civic, employee, cultural, faith, and fraternity and sorority group activities.
- Set up a vision rehabilitation exhibit at your local library. Arrange with a vision rehabilitation service provider to demonstrate visual and adaptive devices.
For more educational ideas and resources you can use in your community, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov/nehep/programs/lowvision/index.asp.
Last year, the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) conducted focus groups around the country, with target audiences grouped by NEHEP program areas. Among them were people with self-reported vision loss. These focus groups allowed NEHEP to query individuals about their knowledge of general eye health, comprehensive dilated eye examinations, and specific eye diseases and conditions, as well as their opinions on educational resources needed to increase knowledge of eye health and their preferred methods for obtaining this information. Data gathered from these focus groups are being used to enhance NEHEP resources, programs, and outreach.
Six focus group sessions with people with self-reported vision loss were conducted in Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, and New York City. Participants ranged in age from 30 to 70 and were grouped by ethnicity, including African Americans, Caucasians, and English- and Spanish-speaking Hispanics/Latinos. While the severity of reported vision loss varied widely from group to group and person to person, everyone reported that vision was very important to them. And many thought vision loss and aging were inextricably related. Moreover, the term “low vision” was unfamiliar to almost all participants.
People indicated that they believe many opportunities exist to increase eye health knowledge among people with self-reported vision loss. Most participants reported being familiar with cataract, but they were not as familiar with other eye diseases and conditions. Few were able to explain major eye conditions, such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, or age-related macular degeneration.
Participants in all demographics indicated the most trusted source of health information were primary care physicians; some Spanish-speaking participants also mentioned pharmacists. However, the majority of Hispanic/Latino participants stated that most eye care professionals were not culturally sensitive and did not answer their questions. Other sources participants look to for eye health information include television, the Internet, magazines, radio, and community outlets.
Findings from the focus groups reinforce the need for NEHEP and the vision community to expand their efforts in educating the public about eye health, vision research, and low vision. There is a continued need to make eye health information more readily available and to find ways to improve access to this information. NEHEP currently has many resources available to address the eye health information needs of individuals, and these materials can be tailored to meet various health information preferences.
View this and other summaries and eye health education-related research at http://www.nei.nih.gov/nehep/research/index.asp.
Since 2003, the National Eye Institute (NEI) has celebrated Healthy Vision Month to encourage Americans to make vision a health priority. Many eye diseases do not have early warning signs, and many people who are at risk for certain eye conditions are unaware of it. This is why it is particularly important for people to schedule regular comprehensive dilated eye exams.
This May, help NEI celebrate Healthy Vision Month by bringing attention to eye health. Hold events in your community, share information and calls to action through your social media channels, talk with your family and friends. Below are a few ideas:
Spread information through your networks. The Healthy Eyes Toolkit contains eye health information you can share with family, friends, and colleagues to promote healthy vision. The toolkit includes e-cards and text messages for quick and easy posting.
Engage community leaders. NEI offers teaching tools that community leaders can use to educate people in their communities about eye health, such as drop-in articles for newsletters and fact sheets, and resources for leading a presentation about eye health.
Reach out to health professionals. Encourage health professionals—beyond those who work in eye care—to include eye health resources in their waiting and exam rooms. NEI offers brochures, fact sheets, posters, videos, and handouts through its Publications Catalog.
Work with parents, teachers, and coaches. Host a health fair at a local school, library, or sporting event for parents, teachers, and students. Use NEI’s Sports-Related Eye Injury Presentation and Speaker’s Guide to lead a healthy vision and eye safety discussion. NEI also invites you to distribute posters and coloring pages to students who attend the event.
Go digital! Use your social media networks to remind family, friends, and colleagues to schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Pre-written Facebook posts and Twitter tweets are available. Search the NEI Image Catalog to find photos you can post with your reminders and encourage everyone to share your posts to spread the word about healthy vision.
If you have any questions about Healthy Vision Month, please contact Elizabeth Osborn at email@example.com or 202–706–7434.
One of the key strategies of the National Council on Aging’s Falls Free© initiative, a member of the National Eye Health Education Program Partnership, is the dissemination of evidence-based fall prevention programs, including A Matter of Balance (MOB). Studies indicate that up to half of community-dwelling older adults experience a fear of falling, and many respond to this concern by limiting their activity. This can result in loss of muscle strength and balance. It can also compromise social interaction and increase the risk for isolation, depression, and anxiety. The fear of falling can actually contribute to falls. MOB is designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels among older adults.
In 2003, the Administration on Aging awarded MaineHealth’s Partnership for Healthy Aging a grant to translate MOB into a lay leader model. In this model, lay leaders—known as coaches—teach the MOB classes instead of healthcare professionals. Since this reduces the cost of delivering the program, it can be offered more frequently, reaching a higher number of older adults. During the class, participants learn to view falls as controllable and set realistic goals for increasing activity. They also find ways to change their environment to reduce fall risk factors and learn simple exercises to increase flexibility, strength, and balance. MOB is now available in 38 states, and more than 40,000 older adults have participated in the program.
The MOB curriculum has now been adapted for use with the low vision population. Debra Laine, Low Vision Translation Project Director at Arrowhead Agency on Aging in Duluth, Minnesota, and her team partnered with the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind to adapt the MOB program to be more accessible to low vision participants. The project was funded by the National Eye Institute through its Healthy Vision Community Awards Program. Adaptations include:
- Participant workbooks available in 12- and 20-point fonts that can be used with a reader.
- Educational material for coaches, with special consideration for teaching the low vision population.
- MOB exercises available on an audio CD.
For more information, visit the MOB/Volunteer Lay Leader Model website at http://www.mmc.org/mh_body.cfm?id=432 or contact Patti League, National Program Manager at 207–661–7120 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find national MOB sites at http://www.mainehealth.org/mh_body.cfm?id=5195.
Veterans experiencing vision problems have a new place to find help. A new guide titled Information for Veterans Coping with Vision Loss is available on VisionAware, a website for adults with vision loss from the American Foundation for the Blind and Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation. This resource serves veterans with vision loss, their families, caregivers, healthcare providers, and social service professionals.
Whether veterans have an eye injury sustained during active service or age-related vision loss, this guide offers a one-stop hub of information and support, ranging from daily living tips to a directory of regional services and local agencies. Other information includes:
- A broad view of veterans’ services
- Interviews with veterans experiencing vision loss
- A Veterans’ Forum message board
- Essential skills for living with vision loss
- Emotional support and help for families
- Employment issues and support
- Information for older veterans
Based on the success of the 2012 Focus on Eye Health National Summit, Prevent Blindness America (PBA) and its partners are sponsoring this year’s summit to highlight advances in vision and public health.
The 2013 Focus on Eye Health National Summit will take place on Tuesday, June 18, from 9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. at the Marriott at Metro Center in Washington, DC.
At this year’s summit, PBA will release the much anticipated update to its 2007 “Economic Impact of Vision Problems” report, which will now include the addition of cost data related to children’s vision. The summit will also feature presentations on the role of surveillance in vision and public health, as well as the impact of disparities as they relate to eye health. In addition, this year’s summit will be expanded to include smaller, more interactive sessions.
Expected attendees include patient advocates, community-based organizations, national vision and eye health organizations, government agencies, and legislative staff. A parallel Twitter conference will coincide with the event, including live updates throughout the course of the summit and encouraging Twitter followers and vision community partners to participate in the dialogue.
“The number of Americans with vision problems could more than double over the next few decades, so it’s vital that policymakers and public health experts have an understanding of the human and economic costs of vision impairment and blindness,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of PBA.
The Center on Vision Loss (CVL), a part of the American Foundation for the Blind, launched an initiative in January 2013 to encourage optometrists in North Texas to refer patients with vision loss to CVL. Almost 900 packets of information were sent. The packets included a letter introducing CVL, written by two local optometrists who serve on the CVL Board; a sample referral letter doctors can give to patients, with a link to the online version of the letter for doctors to use and personalize (which can be downloaded here); and information on CVL’s continuing education program.
The letter contained essential information about the resources CVL offers people experiencing vision problems; about Esther’s Place, a fully equipped demonstration model home filled with accommodations and devices designed to help people with vision loss to function effectively in the home, work, or school environment; and about how the optometrists can visit or refer patients for assistance. The packet also included a flyer about VisionAware.org, an easy-to-use informational website for those with vision loss and their families, friends, and healthcare providers.
As many people with visual impairments and the professionals who serve them are not aware of the resources or services that CVL has to offer, the goal of this initiative is to educate doctors about CVL and encourage them to refer their patients to helpful services. Later this spring, CVL will also offer an educational program for optometrists to obtain continuing education credits. The program will include a tour of Esther’s Place, a presentation on resources and how to refer, and a presentation by filmmaker Joe Lovett, with excerpts from his film “Going Blind.” The results of this initiative will be evaluated.
A similar project is in the works for ophthalmologists and ophthalmic technicians in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas.
For more information about this initiative, contact Neva Fairchild at 214–438–5316 or email@example.com.
The Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) in Atlanta, Georgia, has been providing rehabilitation services to approximately 5,000 individuals who are blind or have visual impairments annually for more than 50 years, and it uses resources from the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) to do it.
Through its Florence Maxwell Low Vision Clinic, CVI offers individuals with visual impairment comprehensive services to promote independence with dignity. Once an individual contacts the clinic, a licensed clinical social worker provides general information about the clinic and resources for community support, including printed NEHEP materials. The social worker also helps individuals specify problems to tell CVI optometrists. These specially trained optometrists conduct vision evaluations and identify low vision devices that help individuals maximize functional vision. Following this, highly trained low vision therapists introduce individuals to lighting and magnification options for reading, writing, and performing daily activities, including optical, nonoptical, and electronic low vision devices, and train individuals to use these devices effectively.
CVI uses NEHEP materials for both public education and client outreach purposes. It also sends NEHEP materials to clients upon request and distributes them at community events. Specific materials used include brochures on diabetes and vision loss and diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract, and low vision. For example, the client services staff uses the See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit, particularly Module I: Making Vision a Health Priority, as talking points to discuss vision loss and various eye conditions with clients.
CVI also helped NEHEP develop new videos on low vision. The videos, featured on the National Eye Institute’s Low Vision Website and the new NEHEP booklet with complementary DVD, Living with Low Vision: What you should know, feature patient stories about how people with low vision use vision rehabilitation services to maintain their independence and quality of life. Another video targets health professionals and emphasizes the importance of referring patients with vision loss to vision rehabilitation services. CVI is planning on integrating the videos into its public presentations.
For more information on the services provided by CVI, visit http://www.cviga.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 Hispanic Medical Association
17th Annual Conference
April 26, 2013
Presentation: Implementing the Diabetes and Health Eyes Toolkit: A Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Curriculum for Preventing Diabetic Eye Disease Among Hispanics/Latinos
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!
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