In this issue:
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) aims to raise awareness about eye health among the American public, especially those who are at higher risk for vision loss and blindness from eye disease. Over the years, NEHEP has been able to expand the reach of our messages and get them to “go viral” with social media. While platforms such as Facebook and online communities play a critical role in reaching the public, our collaborations with community-based organizations around the country have made the greatest impact in bringing eye health information right to people’s doorsteps—to their homes, their places of worship, their beauty and barber shops, their doctors’ offices, their libraries, and more.
To help community organizations address eye health, NEHEP has developed a new series of tip sheets that provide information about the risks of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease in specific populations, their increasing prevalence, how they affect vision, and how NEHEP resources can be used to promote awareness of early detection and treatment to prevent vision loss and blindness. These resources can be downloaded below.
In addition to community organizations, health, professional, academic, and civic organizations also play an important role in helping raise awareness about eye health. Our success in reaching millions of Americans throughout the year could not be done without the commitment of the NEHEP Partnership, especially during observances like National Diabetes Month in November and Glaucoma Awareness Month in January. We want to thank everyone for their efforts over the past few months in bringing greater attention to the importance of early detection for these diseases. And, we’d like to invite you now to join us during the month of February as we observe Low Vision Awareness Month and promote the benefits of vision rehabilitation for people living with low vision.
Low vision means that even with glasses, contact lenses, medications, or surgery, people still have difficulty seeing and doing everyday tasks like reading, driving, cooking and getting around. However, people living with impaired vision can make the most of the sight they do have with vision rehabilitation. It’s important that we encourage people living with low vision, their family and friends to seek out services and devices that can help them maintain their independence and quality of life. The article “NEHEP Resources Help Raise Awareness of Low Vision” in this issue of Outlook describes some of the many resources we offer and ideas on how you can get involved and share this information in your community.
You will also see an article in this issue about the National Eye Institute’s new responsive website. We are working on the second phase of this project with a redesign of the NEHEP pages and look forward to a spring launch. Stay tuned! In the meantime, you can still find all of our educational materials and resources, including archives of our webinars and new infocards and infographics, teaching tools, Spanish-language resources, and videos like our new dilated eye exam animation.
On the topic of all things new, we’d like to welcome our new NEHEP Planning Committee Chair, Dr. Suber Huang and our three new NEHEP Planning Committee members, Drs. Richard Baker, Janet Leasher, and Jullia Rosdahl. They bring a great deal of expertise and enthusiasm to the committee and we look forward to working with them over the next four years.
A new feature we’re adding to Outlook is the Planning Committee Corner where our committee members will be writing about topics of interest to the patients and public we serve. In this inaugural article, Dr. Rosdahl talks about why adherence to glaucoma treatment is so important.
Lastly, I want to thank the NEHEP Partnership organizations that submitted articles for this issue of Outlook. We love to share what NEHEP is doing, but we love to hear and share the eye health education activities of our partners, too. Raising awareness about eye health is a collaborative effort and as Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Please contact us to let us know about your work in raising awareness about eye health and any unique initiatives your organization is doing to reach populations at higher risk. We would especially appreciate comments on how you use NEHEP materials and how we can better support your eye health education efforts. As always, we look forward to hearing from you.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) is pleased to announce Suber Huang, M.D., M.B.A., as its new Planning Committee Chair for 2015‒2018. Three new members also are joining the committee—Richard Baker, M.D.; Janet Leasher, O.D., M.P.H.; and Jullia Rosdahl, M.D. Ph.D. The Planning Committee, which advises the National Eye Institute on the overall development, implementation, and evaluation of NEHEP activities, comprises experts in eye care and public health education.
Suber Huang, M.D., M.B.A., has a long history with NEHEP, serving on the Planning Committee and as chair of its Diabetic Eye Disease Subcommittee since 2005. He was formerly the vice chair and director of clinical research in the Department of Ophthalmology and head of the Retinal Diseases Image Analysis Reading Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. In October 2014, he founded the Retina Center of Ohio and will continue as the Philip and Elizabeth G. Searle Professor of Ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University, where he was awarded “Attending of the Year” in 2014. He has longstanding interests in clinical trials, diabetic retinopathy, stem cell therapy, retina prosthesis, and new device development. He is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and serves as the Associate Secretariat for Federal Affairs and Chair of the Research, Regulatory, and External Scientific Affairs committee. He is a past president of the American Society of Retina Specialists.
Richard S. Baker, M.D., is executive director of the Center for Health Services Research and professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. A board-certified ophthalmologist, he holds a joint faculty appointment at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. He is also a member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, where he serves as associate director of the Jules Stein Center for Eye Epidemiology. Dr. Baker is the founding director of the Drew Health Services Research Center and co-founder and executive director of the Drew Urban Telemedicine Center of Excellence. He currently serves on the boards of directors of the California Medical Association, the Hispanic Serving Health Professions Schools, the Latino Physicians of California, and Healthy African American Families.
Janet Leasher, O.D., M.P.H., is an associate professor in optometry at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and has served as the director of community outreach for the NSU College of Optometry since June 2003. She spearheads community health education and promotion projects in visual health. Her current teaching assignments in the Doctor of Optometry program include public health didactic courses and primary care, pediatric, and binocular vision clinics. She is also a member of the faculty in the Master of Science Clinical Vision Research program and holds a faculty appointment within the Public Health program at the College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her research interests include program evaluation and global access to quality vision care.
Jullia Rosdahl, M.D., Ph.D., is a practicing glaucoma specialist and clinician-scientist at the Duke Eye Center and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Duke University. She is also a staff ophthalmologist at the Durham VA Medical Center. Dr. Rosdahl completed her medical and graduate school education at the Case Western Reserve University Medical Scientist Training Program, where her research focused on the neural development of retinal ganglion cells. She is actively involved in teaching medical students and ophthalmology trainees and began working with NEHEP when she became a member of its Glaucoma Subcommittee in 2014.
To learn more and view a list of current members, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov/nehep/about/committee.
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 estimates that low vision affects 3 million Americans age 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 is lost usually cannot be restored, many people can make the most of the vision they have.
The National Eye Health Education Program’s (NEHEP’s) Low Vision Education Program offers resources that provide people living with low vision and their loved ones with information about the benefits of vision rehabilitation and the services and devices that can help them live independently and maintain their quality of life. These resources include the following.
Living With Low Vision Booklet and Companion DVD
Download or order this booklet with a companion DVD and share it with people with vision loss and their families to help them better understand how to get help and live more safely and independently. You can link to the videos on the DVD from your website or share them on your social media outlets. You can view the full video, including all the testimonials, in English or Spanish.
Low Vision Education Module
Use this education module to conduct educational sessions in your community about low vision. You can inform others about signs of vision loss, the benefits of vision rehabilitation services, where to get more information, questions to ask a specialist in low vision, tips for managing medications, and more. The module includes a PowerPoint presentation, speaker’s guide, participant handouts, and other useful tools.
Low Vision Infographic
Share this infographic to provide at-a-glance information about low vision, the number of people affected, and how they can get help. It’s perfect to use on your social media outlets, or add it to an article, story, newsletter, or website.
Print Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
Enlist the mass media. NEHEP offers PSAs that can be used to promote low vision awareness. Ask the editor of your local newspaper to run them or use them in your own publications or social media outlets.
For more resources and ideas, visit https://www.nei.nih.gov/nehep/programs/lowvision/.
Taking Control of Glaucoma: The Importance of Adherence to Glaucoma Treatment
By: Jullia A. Rosdahl, M.D., Ph.D.
National Eye Health Education Program Planning Committee
Duke Eye Center, Duke University
Glaucoma is known as the “silent thief of sight.” People with glaucoma usually have no symptoms in its early stages. The only intervention that has been proven to reduce the risk of vision loss in glaucoma is lowering eye pressure. The most common way to lower eye pressure is with eye drop medications. Glaucoma treatments do not improve vision, but they do to help prevent vision loss from happening.
What does it mean to be “compliant?”
Adherence (the newer term that is replacing “compliance”) with glaucoma treatment usually means taking your eye drops every day and at the right times and coming to your glaucoma checkups. Your doctor needs to check your eye pressure regularly, as well as look at your optic nerves and measure your visual fields, to monitor your disease.
Why is it difficult to take eye drops everyday?
Some people with glaucoma only need one or two eye drops every day to control their glaucoma, but some may need as many as four glaucoma medications, taken multiple times throughout the day. Imagine using two eye drops in the morning, one eye drop at noon, one at dinnertime, and two more in the evening, and doing this every day for years, to help protect your sight. It is easy to see how people could miss some drops. Reasons can include forgetting them (or falling asleep before that bedtime drop), the cost of the medications, the side effects from the eye drops, and many others.
Why is adherence important for glaucoma patients?
In one word: blindness. The eye drops lower eye pressure, which helps protect the eye from losing vision from glaucoma. If a patient does not use his or her eye drops, then the eye pressure will not be as low as it needs to be during that time and the eye can be damaged. The damage from glaucoma is not reversible, so prevention is the goal.
What can you do?
If you have glaucoma and you take eye drops, use them every day and as close to the right time as possible. Also, see your doctor for your glaucoma checkups. Ask about your eye pressure readings, your optic nerve appearance, and your visual fields, so that you know what’s going on with your disease. If you are having any trouble using your drops as prescribed, (for example, increased cost due to change in insurance, always forgetting the morning drop, red eyes drawing attention at work), then tell your doctor about it, so you can make changes in your treatment plan.
Friends and family members can help, too. If someone you care about has glaucoma, think about asking them if they need any help with their drops. Some ways you might help include looking at videos to see eye drop techniques, putting in the drops for them, providing gentle reminders, or going with them to doctor’s visits to be a “second set of ears” on instructions and recommendations.
Taking eye drops for glaucoma is not easy, but it does work. Most people who are treated for glaucoma do not go blind. Take control of your disease by taking your eye drops and going to your glaucoma checkups.
For more information about glaucoma and treatment, visit www.nei.nih.gov/health/glaucoma.
Getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam is a great way to check the health of your eyes, especially if you are at higher risk for eye disease. But aside from making your eyes hypersensitive to light, what does the exam accomplish?
A comprehensive dilated eye exam allows an eye care professional to detect many common eye diseases—including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration—before symptoms begin. In many cases, these diseases are treatable. However, once symptoms begin, it may not be possible to restore vision that has already been lost.
To help people understand how a comprehensive dilated eye exam works, what the results mean, and how to discuss them with a doctor, the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the National Institutes of Health Office of the Director have developed a new animation that shows the exam from a doctor’s point of view. The video describes what the doctor sees when examining the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye), macula (the part of the retina needed for sharp, central vision), and optic nerve (which connects the retina to the brain).
You can watch the video at http://www.nei.nih.gov/eyeexam, and are encouraged to link to it from your website and share it across your social media channels.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) carried out a strong social media push to promote Glaucoma Awareness Month this January. As part of this effort, NEHEP sent newly created glaucoma infocards to ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser hoping that he would share them with his more than 46,000 followers on Twitter. And it paid off.
Dr. Besser did much more than share the infocards, which included messages that glaucoma runs in families and that a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect glaucoma early and help save an individual's sight. After one of his tweets featuring a glaucoma infocard was favorited and retweeted so many times, he invited NEHEP to co-sponsor his weekly #abcDrBchat on Twitter, during which he discusses different medical topics.
During the chat, Dr. Besser, NEHEP staff, Partnership organizations, and Planning Committee members shared important messages about glaucoma, such as how people are at higher risk if they have a family history of the disease or are African American age 40 and older; how important it is to have dilated eye exams every one to two years if you are at higher risk; how glaucoma affects vision; the importance of early detection and treatment; and available educational resources from NEHEP.
During the chat, NEHEP posted 50 tweets, gaining more than 24,000 impressions (number of individuals who saw the tweets). Of those 50 tweets, there were 90 re-tweets, 53 mentions, and 24 favorites. Moreover, links to NEHEP resources within tweets received 993 clicks.
To see a summary of the chat, visit http://abcnews.go.com/Health/early-diagnosis-helps-prevent-blindness/story?id=28385176 and be sure to follow @NEHEP on Twitter.
The public is using an increasing variety of digital devices to access the Internet. To help its visitors have the best experience possible, the National Eye Institute (NEI) launched a new responsive website design. The site will now automatically adjust to your device—smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer—by modifying the content flow, restructuring the navigation menu, and resizing images. More federal websites will become responsive as agencies address points in the Government Digital Strategy.
In addition to the responsive design, you will notice a brighter color palette and streamlined front page layout. There is also a “Listen” button on each webpage. This function allows the page content to be read to you, if you choose. Look for additional enhancements in the coming months including content sharing tools, new design for the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) pages, and a revamped NEHEP Partnership directory.
If you have comments or questions about the NEI Website, please contact Kym Collins-Lee,website manager.
The National Expert Panel (NEP) of the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health (NCCVEH) at Prevent Blindness has published recommendations for an evidence-based approach to vision screening in children ages 3 through 5 and system-based public health strategies to improve surveillance of and program accountability for children’s vision in the United States. The recommendations are published in the January 2015 issue of Optometry and Vision Science and are discussed on this special NCCVEH-hosted Vision Health Systems for Preschool-Age Children website.
In 2009, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a grant to Prevent Blindness to establish NCCVEH. Its mission is to develop a coordinated public health infrastructure to promote and ensure a comprehensive, multitiered continuum of vision care for young children. NCCVEH convened NEP—a panel of leading professionals in ophthalmology, optometry, pediatrics, public health, and related fields—to review the current scientific literature, explore best practices, and gain consensus on the best approach to children’s vision and eye health.
NEP has written three papers targeting children ages 36 to less than 72 months:
- Vision Screening for Children 36 to <72 Months: Recommended Practices
- Vision and Eye Health in Children 36 to <72 Months: Proposed Data System
- Vision and Eye Health in Children 36 to <72 Months: Proposed Data Definitions
For a copy of the recommendations, additional information on children’s general eye health, NCCVEH, or Prevent Blindness, please visit http://visionsystems.preventblindness.org or call 800–331–2020.
EyeCare America, one of the largest public service programs in American medicine, is celebrating 30 years of helping medically underserved older Americans preserve their sight. Eligible patients receive an eye exam and care, often at no out-of-pocket cost, through a pool of more than 6,000 dedicated volunteer ophthalmologists. Since its inception in 1985, EyeCare America has helped more than 1.8 million people by providing access to medical eye care and preventive eye health information.
Individuals can visit http://www.eyecareamerica.org to see if they or their loved ones qualify. Those eligible are matched by ZIP code with the nearest available volunteer ophthalmologist. Social workers, clinicians, and organizations across the United States partner with EyeCare America to help people learn if they qualify.
The program has been recognized by celebrities such as Gene Kelly and Betty White and every U.S. president since its inception, including Ronald Reagan, who referred to it as “volunteerism at its finest.” EyeCare America has been featured in multiple national publications, including The New York Times, Parade, Newsweek, and “Dear Abby.”
“One in six Americans age 65 and older has a vision impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses,” said C.P. Wilkinson, M.D., chair of EyeCare America. “All too often, people wait until they've lost some of their vision before seeing an ophthalmologist because they cannot afford the out-of-pocket cost. EyeCare America aims to change that by matching patients in need with one of its volunteers.”
In honor of EyeCare America’s anniversary, any organization or clinician interested in receiving free EyeCare America brochures or risk factor cards can email EyeCare America staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations, EyeCare America! Here’s to preserving sight for another 30 years.
National Diabetes Education Program Releases New Guiding Principles on Diabetes Management and Prevention
The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) has published a set of 10 clinically useful guiding principles to identify and synthesize areas of general agreement among existing guidelines to help guide primary care providers and health care teams to deliver quality care to adults with or at risk for diabetes. Guiding Principles for the Care of People With or at Risk for Diabetes serves as the cornerstone of diabetes care to help healthcare professionals with the identification and management of the disease, self-management support for patients, physical activity, and blood glucose control.
For example, Principle 8 provides information about the importance of comprehensive dilated eye exams to help with the assessment and management of diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults.
More than 12 federal agencies and professional organizations support Guiding Principles. To view or download NDEP’s Guiding Principles and to see which organizations support this resource, please visit http://www.YourDiabetesInfo.org/GuidingPrinciples.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) CareerConnect®, an online employment information resource developed specifically for job seekers who are blind or visually impaired, now offers the CareerConnect App™. This free app enables students and adults with vision loss and professionals who work with them to access employment information, career exploration tools, and extensive job-seeking guidance on the go if you have an Apple device, such as an iPhone or iPad. The new app is designed to be used for job search tips, quick lesson ideas, and career advice.
For those who are new to vision loss or work with those who are, the Getting Started Kit is a great resource for tips on adapting to life with vision loss. And now, it’s available in Spanish! You can visit Versión Completa de Texto del Kit de “Primeros Pasos” de VisionAware, which contains comprehensive information and tips, or you can sign up to receive VisionAware alerts and newsletters and receive a free print copy of the Getting Started Kit in English and Spanish. VisionAware is AFB’s free, easy-to-use, online resource center for adults with vision loss, their families, caregivers, healthcare providers, and social service professionals.
In the November–December 2014 special issue of AFB’s Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness—Service Delivery Models in Education: Specialized Schools and Itinerant Programs—readers will find a wealth of information on programs and models from across the United States that meet the unique educational needs of students with visual impairments, including students with additional disabilities. The issue is available in a variety of formats.
For leaders in vision loss, the AFB Leadership Conference is the perfect time to learn from the best and brightest minds in the field, make new connections, and earn Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor continuing education units. Registration is now open for the 2015 AFB Leadership Conference, which will be held in conjunction with the Arizona chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the professional association in the blindness field, at the Phoenix Renaissance Downtown, April 9 to 11, 2015. This annual conference covers the most pressing and relevant topics on the subject of blindness, and attendees include diverse organizations and institutions spanning the public and private sectors, including school districts, schools for the blind, veterans’ administrations, hospitals, private agencies, and universities.
For more information about any of these items, contact Amanda Kolling at email@example.com.
Through its Audio Description Project, the American Council of the Blind has partnered with Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., to make live audio descriptions available at performances of Fiddler on the Roof and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
Many theaters throughout the United States engage in similar services where trained audio describers enhance the theater experience for people who are blind or visually impaired. Audio description is a narration service that provides succinct and vivid language to make the visual images of a theatrical production accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. In theaters and similar venues, the user hears the audio description via a small earpiece or earphones connected to a tiny receiver. Audio description is typically a carefully timed live commentary of onstage action that guides the listener through new scenes, set designs, costumes, movement, and body language. The describer occasionally speaks “between the lines” to describe entrances, exits, actions, and key props to people who cannot see them.
There is never any charge to the theater patron for the use of audio descriptions, although the theater may pay a fee for the service. If you don't find audio description offered for a favorite theater or for a specific production that you would like described, call and ask for it. The theater will need to find local audio describers but there is no harm in asking.
To learn more about the American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project, visit http://www.acb.org/adp.
The Macular Degeneration Partnership (MDP) is an educational program of the Discovery Eye Foundation, which supports research, education, advocacy, and treatment of sight-threatening eye diseases. Through MDP, which has more than 53,000 members, the Foundation provides people with up-to-date, accurate information and personalized support.
MDP’s mission is to provide comprehensive, easily understood, and up-to-the-minute information about age-related macular degeneration (AMD) for everyone who needs it, using all tools available—the Internet, telephone, public events, and printed materials. MDP supports ongoing research in AMD and coordinates advocacy campaigns to help find new treatments and a cure. This mission has been greatly enhanced by the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP). MDP has worked with NEHEP for almost 15 years to raise awareness of AMD and provide unbiased and current information to patients and their families.
MDP recently sponsored the EyeSite traveling exhibit in the Los Angeles area and distributed more than 10,000 NEHEP booklets on AMD and low vision. It continues to highlight and use NEHEP and National Eye Institute resources such as the image library, monthly commemorations like Low Vision Awareness Month, and general eye health resources. MDP uses NEHEP materials and graphics monthly for its outreach activities and feels NEHEP “is an invaluable resource that supports our mission and makes us that much more effective in helping seniors with AMD and vision loss.”
For more information on MDP, visit http://www.amd.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!