A growing body of diabetes, vision, and health care research indicates that significant disparities in the quality and equity of eye care exist throughout the United States, specifically within African American patient communities.
This research includes evaluating the disparities in screening rates for diabetic retinopathy among minority patients, examining the rates of vision loss of African-American patients with diabetes, and determining the rates of follow-up eye care among African-American persons with diabetic eye disease.
Now, in response to this developing body of evidence and knowledge, the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP), part of the National Eye Institute, (NEI) has released Write the Vision: Make Your Plan to Protect Your Sight, an eye health awareness initiative designed specifically for African Americans. Write the Vision offers monthly resources to a wide range of organizations, enabling them to promote healthy vision and help prevent vision loss and blindness in the communities they serve.
According to NEHEP, “It is important for African Americans to be aware of their eye health because they are at higher risk for certain eye diseases that, if left untreated, can cause vision loss, even blindness. The good news is that vision loss can often be prevented. Visiting an eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to really be sure your eyes are healthy.”
About the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP)
The mission of NEI, a part of the National Institutes of Health, is to “conduct and support research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to blinding eye diseases, visual disorders, mechanisms of visual function, preservation of sight, and the special health problems and requirements of the blind.”
In 1991, NEI established the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) with the aim of increasing awareness among health care professionals and the public of scientifically-based health information that can be applied to preserving sight and preventing blindness.
NEHEP works in partnership with a wide range of public and private organizations that conduct eye health education programs. It also works with organizations that reach populations at higher risk for eye disease and supports collaboration among eye health professionals, healthcare providers, patients, and the public.
The goal of NEHEP is to “ensure that vision is a health priority by translating eye and vision research into public and professional education programs. NEHEP supports collaboration among eye health professionals, healthcare providers, patients, and the public.” You can learn more at About NEHEP.
More About the Write the Vision: Make Your Plan to Protect Your Sight Initiative
NEHEP logo text: Help raise awareness of eye health among African Americans.
The components of this comprehensive community-based information program include the following:
Eye Diseases Among African Americans
Eye Diseases Among African Americans includes information on the most common eye diseases and conditions that affect African Americans, including cataract, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, and low vision.
According to NEHEP, “Many of these diseases and conditions do not have noticeable symptoms in their early stages, but they can be detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Treatment is most effective when an eye disease is diagnosed early. African Americans have some of the highest rates of vision impairment and blindness due to eye disease. Unfortunately, too many African Americans do not get regular, comprehensive dilated eye exams that could help save their sight.”
NEHEP logo text (above): Approximately 828,000 African Americans have diabetic retinopathy and this number is expected to exceed one million by 2030. African Americans are at higher risk for glaucoma at a much younger age (40 years) than other populations (60 years). Approximately 188,000 African Americans have low vision and this number is expected to reach 366,000 by 2030.
Resources by Month
Resources by Month offers a free monthly set of materials, featuring a unique message that promotes healthy vision using a seasonal theme. Monthly materials include articles, slides, fact sheets, or infographics that users can incorporate into their existing programs and community outreach.
Resources by Topic
Resources by Topic includes vision materials that organizations can order, print, and download to support their educational efforts. NEI’s Diabetic Eye Disease, Glaucoma, Healthy Vision, Low Vision, and Vision and Aging materials can help promote awareness for a variety of age groups throughout the year.
Resources by Type
Resources by Type includes a variety of educational sources to order, print, and download, including articles, social media posts, infocards, and infographics for health fairs and community events.
Watch, Listen, and Learn
Watch, Listen, and Learn provides a collection of NEI educational videos to help people learn about diabetic eye disease, comprehensive dilated eye exams, and to promote eye health messages. Topic areas include cataract; common vision problems; comprehensive dilated eye exam animation; living with low vision; patient testimonials; detecting glaucoma; and glaucoma animation.
Social Media includes NEHEP social media posts and resources to help reach African American consumers about eye disease, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Use the hashtag #WriteTheVision.
Additional Information from VisionAware
Visit VisionAware.org to learn more about the different types of eye care professionals, the comprehensive low vision examination, and vision rehabilitation services.
You can use the American Foundation for the Blind Directory of Services to locate low vision and vision rehabilitation services that are available in your state and local area.