Eye on National Vision Month

May 13, 2011, 5:13 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

National health observances such as Healthy Vision Month, which gets its due each May, can be very effective public health opportunities. The observances give government agencies and national organizations a chance to highlight key health issues that can help improve the health of all Americans and provide both information and resources.

For Healthy Vision Month, the National Eye Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health, has created an online web resource that includes education and communications materials. A toolkit offers a range of shareable materials including suggestions for text messages about healthy vision that health departments can use or can encourage consumers to share with others.

Health observances also create the opportunity to highlight health issues within different populations. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has begun focusing on the vision concerns and issues of specific ethnic and racial communities. A recent study looked at glaucoma risk among Asian Americans, who have the highest risk for the disease among all ethnic groups in the U.S. And the AAO has also launched a pilot program to bring free eye screening programs to at-risk populations.

Financial concerns can be one barrier to eye screenings to detect serious eye problems; health clinics do not always have ophthalmologists on staff. The National Eye Institute has a resource list to help direct patients to free and reduced-cost eye care.

Weigh In: Does your community offer free health screenings tied to national health observances?

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.