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For the first time, vision objectives have been included in Healthy People 2010, a national disease prevention initiative that identifies opportunities to improve the health of all Americans.
“The addition of vision objectives to Healthy People is a real milestone and gives vision a prominent place on the public health agenda,” said Dr. Carl Kupfer, director of the National Eye Institute, one of the Federal government’s National Institutes of Health. “Our long term investment in clinical and basic vision research demonstrates that vision plays a significant role in the nation’s public health.”
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthy People identifies the most significant preventable threats to health, and establishes national goals to reduce these threats. Earlier versions of Healthy People–one in 1979 and a second in 1990–did not include vision objectives.
The vision objectives in Healthy People 2010 are included in a chapter combining vision and hearing, which states that the national goal is to “improve the visual and hearing health of the nation through prevention, early detection, treatment, and rehabilitation.” The chapteraddresses visual impairment due to diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract, and refractive error, saying that “visual impairment is associated with loss of personal independence, decreased quality of life, and difficulty maintaining employment. For older adults, visual problems have a pronounced negative impact on quality of life, equivalent to that of life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and cancer.”
Other vision objectives include increasing the proportion of people who have regular dilated eye examinations and the number of children ages five and under who have vision screenings. Regarding vision in children, Healthy People 2010 says that “visual impairment is associated with developmental delays and the need for special educational, vocational, and social services.” The chapter also calls visual impairment “one of the 10 most frequent causes of disability in America” and discusses the importance of vision rehabilitation.
Most states and many localities use the Healthy People framework to guide local health policies and programs. Over 350 national membership organizations and 250 state health, mental health, substance abuse, and environmental agencies have joined the Healthy People Consortium and are working together with Federal and state agencies to advance health objectives.
“Several organizations came together to lay the groundwork for the Healthy People 2010 vision objectives,” Dr. Kupfer said. “Now it’s time for all eye health professionals and other consumer and industry advocates of improved visual health to come together as a community to build upon this national blueprint. The vision community needs to incorporate these objectives in their agencies, practices, and clinics and integrate them in their strategic plans. We need to approach our agencies and professional associations and encourage them to actively support these objectives. We must build public-private partnerships and educate other groups in our communities about why these objectives are important to our nation’s health.
“The vision community must take a leadership role in implementing strategies that support the Healthy People 2010 objectives,” Dr. Kupfer said. “I challenge every advocate for better vision to become an important resource in implementing the Healthy People 2010 objectives by encouraging people to take better care of their eyes.”
For more information about the Healthy People 2010 objectives, Contact Rosemary Janiszewski of the National Eye Institute at 301-496-5248 or visit the NEI web site at http://www.nei.nih.gov.
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Healthy People 2010
Overall Vision Goal
Improve the visual and hearing health of the nation through prevention, early detection, treatment, and rehabilitation.
- Increase the proportion of persons who have a dilated eye examination at appropriate intervals.
- Increase the proportion of preschool children aged five years and under who receive vision screening.
- Reduce uncorrected visual impairment due to refractive errors.
- Reduce blindness and visual impairment in children and adolescents aged 17 years and under.
- Reduce visual impairment due to diabetic retinopathy.
- Reduce visual impairment due to glaucoma.
- Reduce visual impairment due to cataract.
- Reduce occupational eye injury.
- Increase the use of appropriate personal protective eyewear in recreational activities and hazardous situations around the home.
- Increase the use of vision rehabilitation services and visual and adaptive devices by people with visual impairments.
You may also wish to see the Healthy Vision 2010 Web Site.
The NEI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is the Federal government’s lead agency for vision research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness. The NIH is an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.