AOA's partnership with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will deliver—again in 2017—by raising awareness among the nation's 600,000 postal workers of the necessity of an annual, comprehensive, in-person eye examination.
Last year, the public-private partnership doubled its number of impressions to 36 million. Not resting on its past success, the AOA-USPS collaboration is already making plans for this year's wellness program. Among changes this year are:
- Moving the program from November and December to August and September ahead of the USPS' busy holiday season.
- Generating data from pre- and post-surveys of the USPS' occupational health staff and a subset of general postal employees as they go through the wellness program. Importantly, a three-month mailed follow-up survey will record changes in health behaviors among the participants.
"At the AOA, we are working to reinforce the relationship between vision health and worker productivity, and to assist in the prevention of job-related injuries and illness," says Michael Dueñas, O.D., AOA's chief public health officer.
"Our combined efforts can easily serve as a playbook for the next iteration of strategies to improve vision and eye health in America,"says AOA President Andrea P. Thau, O.D.
Among the educational outreach being provided to postal workers by the AOA is a public service announcement by Dr. Thau, a webinar and toolkit for staff nurses, PowerPoint presentations and wellness posters displayed at more than32,000 postal facilities. Doctors of optometry were enlisted to help educate postal works on vision and eye health and how doctors of optometry provide a broad range of eye health and vision care services.
The unique partnership between the AOA and USPS fulfills major recommendations of the 2016 report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM/formerlyIOM), "Making Eye Health a Population Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow," Dr. Dueñas says.
"The report endorses public/private collaborations to promote eye and vision health in communities," he says. "Further, the report stresses the need to understand utilization of vision care services to ensure that resources are allocated to achieve maximum benefit."
That maximum benefit will take a shift in paradigms and ways of thinking, he adds.
This necessary change in thinking, according to Dr. Dueñas, includes "identifying barriers to vision care (e.g., diagnosis and treatment) afforded through a face-to-face encounter with an eye doctor." The NASEM report noted the barrier that "many individuals today do not receive the full complement of resources they need to overcome vision-related disability."
Over three dozen Opportunities in Optometry grants have been awarded since 2021, helping traditionally underrepresented minority groups within the profession apply for optometry school.
In June, the AOA House of Delegates approved changes to the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education that increased the number of members on its board from 11 to 13. The council also announced the passing of the baton to new leadership.
AOA partners with actor, producer, singer and gamer, Jordan Fisher to bring awareness to healthy screen time practices and encourage patients to be seen in person by an AOA doctor of optometry for quality eye care.