America’s Vision Health and Care Must Be a National Priority, According to New Report from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine

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America's Vision Health and Care Must Be a National Priority, According to New Report from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
American Optometric Association Has a Clear Vision to Bring Pivotal Recommendations to Life

Alexandria, VA (September 15, 2016) - Blindness is the condition that many Americans fear most[1], yet millions suffer with undiagnosed and undertreated vision impairments impacting their overall health and well-being. There is a clear call to action to change the state of eye health and vision care from the new report, "Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow," released today by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies) and sponsored in part by the American Optometric Association (AOA)[2].

The National Academies have set a roadmap to improve the future of vision health and ensure that everyone in the U.S. has access to eye and vision care, a mission AOA has long championed. The plan elevates efforts doctors of optometry and the AOA, as a leading authority in quality vision and eye care, have been making to expand clinical eye care services and regular in-person comprehensive eye examinations for everyone.

"The National Academies' report is an expression of the vision health improvements that family eye doctors and our community partners have worked tirelessly to achieve, and it shines a crucial spotlight on eye and vision health issues and the need to responsibly address them," says Andrea P. Thau, O.D., president of the AOA. "With today's technology and tools, along with the strongest-ever collection of doctors of optometry, we are already putting these recommendations to work to deliver quality, evidence-based care and ensure that everyone has access to in-person comprehensive eye examinations and needed clinical eye care."

The report confirms concerns that the AOA has long understood and is actively addressing. To tackle these challenges, "Making Eye Health a Population Imperative," outlines a public health approach made up of five foundational strategies, supported by nine specific recommendations compelling stakeholder actions to accomplish those goals.  

* Facilitate public awareness through timely access to accurate and locally relevant information
Recommendations: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)-led public health call to action and awareness campaign.
* Generate evidence to guide policy decisions and evidence-based actions
Recommendations: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-coordinated surveillance system; and HHS-led interagency workgroup to develop a common research agenda.
* Expand access to appropriate clinical care
Recommendations: HHS-convened interdisciplinary panels to develop a single set of evidence-based clinical and rehabilitation practice guidelines; and eye health profession-led education programs to proactively recruit and educate a diverse workforce and incorporate prevention and detection of visual impairments, population health, and team care coordination as part of core competencies.
* Enhance public health capacities to support vision-related activities
Recommendations: State and local public health departments' partnership with health care systems to align public health and clinical practice objectives, programs, and strategies about eye and vision health to eliminate barriers and increase access to clinical eye care, especially comprehensive eye examinations; and CDC prioritization and expansion of its vision grant program to build state and local public health capacity.
*Promote community actions that encourage eye- and vision-healthy environments.
Recommendation: Community collaboration with state and local health departments and Cabinet Level Agencies, Independent Federal Agencies and the Office of the White House to translate a broad national agenda to promote eye and vision health into actions that encourage policies and conditions that improve eye and vision health and foster environments to minimize the impact of vision impairment.

"We set out to design actionable, achievable recommendations that would set out a clear plan for the future of vision health," says Lori Grover, O.D., Ph.D., National Academies panel member, AOA Evidence-Based Optometry Committee member and senior vice president for health policy at King Devick Test, Inc. "The direction and recommendations, if concertedly acted upon in educational and health policy arenas and in a clinically reasonable manner, would effectuate long-term and sustainable reduction in preventable vision impairment and its impacts, improving population health outcomes."

The AOA has long been implementing programs that have had significant impact on improving eye and vision health. These programs and the increased access to in-person eye examinations that they provide bring these recommendations to life and set the standard the collective healthcare community should use to move forward.

* Since 2013, Think About Your Eyes has made incredible progress in improving vision health and provides a model for future awareness initiatives. A nationwide, multi-faceted public relations and advertising campaign, Think About Your Eyes is a collaborative effort specifically designed to educate Americans on the need for better vision health, motivate them to schedule their annual comprehensive eye examination, and link them to a doctor if they do not already have one. 
* AOA has been cooperating with the CDC and its contractor to bring a cohesive surveillance system to life and AOA MORE (Measures and Outcomes Registry for Eyecare), optometry's registry, will be a crucial source for this system.
* In 2014, AOA issued evidence-based guidelines for eye care for the patient with diabetes mellitus following the principles outlined in the National Academies' groundbreaking report "Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust."  And AOA's soon-to-be-released pediatric vision care guidelines follow the same guidance and will provide the only set of evidence-based guidelines for children's vision care that completely follow the National Academies' guidance. Adherence to these guidelines will expand access to comprehensive, in-person eye examinations for all children.
* The Affordable Care Act's Pediatric Vision Essential Health Benefits make vision care, including comprehensive eye examinations and glasses for children from birth through age 18, a required element of insurance coverage, significantly reducing cost as a barrier to access important eye and vision health care.

The AOA will continue to lead the charge working together with doctors of optometry, the vision community at large and local, regional and national agencies to transform these recommendations into a catalyst for change to remove barriers to care, improve clinical eye care and access to resources. For more information, updates and access to the report, visit www.aoa.org/news/advocacy/preventable-vision-loss-unacceptable

[1] JAMA Ophthalmology "Public Attitudes about Eye and Vision Health," August 2016. http://archopht.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2540516
[2] "Making Eye Health A Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow," sponsors: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Eye Institute, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Academy of Optometry, American Optometric Association, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, Prevent Blindness and National Center for Children's Vision and Eye Health and Research to Prevent Blindness
[3] (IOM Committee on Standards for Developing Trustworthy Clinical Practice Guidelines; Institute of Medicine 2011)


About the American Optometric Association (AOA):
The American Optometric Association, a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations, was founded in 1898. Today, the AOA is proud to represent the profession of optometry, America's family eye doctors, who take a leading role in an individual's overall eye and vision care, health and well-being. Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders, diseases and injuries that affect the eye and visual system, providing two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For information on a variety of eye health and vision topics, and to find an optometrist near you, visit www.aoa.org.