AOA contributes to CDC vision initiative to build upon National Academies report

April 25, 2017
Expert panel identifying strategic objectives for CDC implementation.

Improving Americans' eye and vision health through a concerted public health approach, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiative is soliciting stakeholder expertise in strategic planning.

Building upon the landmark 2016 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report, "Making Eye Health a Population Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow," the CDC's Vision Health Initiative (VHI) is seeking input and perspective in the development of its strategic agenda for promoting eye and vision health nationwide through a multidisciplinary stakeholder panel. These experts will help synthesize the National Academies' reports' major recommendations into actionable items moving forward.

The CDC VHI, a liaison between state and national partners, helps to improve vision health through surveillance, applied public health research, and programs and policies that prevent and control eye disease, injury and vision loss. Among its objectives, the CDC VHI works toward identifying and acting upon evidence-based, cost-effective public health interventions to prevent vision loss, promote eye health and reduce health disparities.

Lori Grover, O.D., Ph.D., AOA Evidence-based Optometry Committee member and National Academies' report author, will serve on the panel alongside experts, including ophthalmology, public health officials, health economists and others. Dr. Grover will serve as a sounding board for CDC, including reviewing key evidence, briefing documents and background materials.

"It's my hope that this work helps to make a major impact on how important eye health is to overall health, and reinforces the value of comprehensive eye and vision care to the nation," Dr. Grover says. "Having that highest-level platform of a national agency—a center so highly respected that we look to it for all health-related issues—I'm hoping the public will take away a renewed, elevated view of the importance of comprehensive eye and vision care, and how doctors of optometry play a major role in facilitating access and integrating patient care with health systems across the nation."

The AOA's participation with CDC VHI stems from continued advocacy efforts to promote education and access to in-person, comprehensive eye examinations, the gold-standard in eye health and vision care, which was central to the AOA's input with the National Academies' report. That report, published in September 2016, offered nine recommendations to address the nation's eye and vision care burden, many stressing the need for greater access and awareness.

The CDC's own data indicate that more than 50% of adults who did not seek eye care reported lack of awareness or cost as the main factor. Therefore, the National Academies' report's recommendations focused on five foundational strategies, including:

  1. Facilitating public awareness through timely access to accurate and locally relevant information.
  2. Generating evidence to guide policy decisions and evidence-based actions.
  3. Expanding access to appropriate clinical care.
  4. Enhancing public health capacities to support vision-related activities; and.
  5. Promote community actions that encourage eye- and vision-healthy environments.

These strategies reflect the AOA's efforts to expand clinical eye care and regular, in-person comprehensive eye examinations, and its goal to eliminate barriers that hinder access to America's family eye doctors.

"Today's doctors of optometry are the best and brightest. Combining the exceptional eye health and vision care they provide with today's technology and tools, we can implement these recommendations with further AOA guidance to deliver quality, evidence-based care to change the face of vision health and ensure that everyone has access to in-person, comprehensive eye examinations and needed clinical eye care," said AOA President Andrea P. Thau, O.D., with the report's release.

AOA already making progress, bolstering pediatric advocacy

While the CDC VHI will take the National Academies' report recommendations one step further, the AOA continues to deliver on these strategic goals, as well. This is no more evident than in AOA's ongoing advocacy for pediatric eye care.

Not only did the AOA champion inclusion of the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Care Act—making vision care, including comprehensive eye examinations and glasses for children from birth through age 18, a required element of insurance coverage—but the AOA also developed the Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination evidence-based clinical practice guideline to bolster primary care doctors, promote multidisciplinary coordination and support advocacy priorities.

However, to address the critical need for all children to receive comprehensive vision care, greater collaboration is necessary between health providers. Recently, the AOA offered an idea for a new payment model for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to test, building upon CMS' high-value priority on interprofessional care communications in Medicare populations.

In a letter addressed to CMS Administrator Seema Verma on March 28, the AOA cited the National Academies' report's findings on preventable vision loss and its recommendations to underscore the need for necessary communication between pediatric care team members, including referrals for comprehensive eye examinations.

The AOA recommended that CMS test a new model of care whereby pediatricians are prompted to ask parents of children under the age of six whether the child has received a comprehensive eye examination by an eye doctor, and refer for further care if not. Additionally, the AOA suggested behavioral health professionals ascertain whether a child has received a comprehensive eye examination before making an ADHD diagnosis. In both cases, the AOA cites the National Academies' report findings and the Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination to support these recommendations.

Read more about the pediatric evidence-based clinical practice guideline.

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