The State of Vision, Aging, and Public Health in America: How Are We Doing?

A head shot of Dr. John Crews. He is in his office, standing in front of a bookcase as a backdrop.

Last weekend I was privileged to attend a professional meeting with a number of vision colleagues, one of whom was the prominent health scientist Dr. John Crews. John E. Crews, DPA, is a Health Scientist with the Vision Health Initiative of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Crews’ specialties are vision impairment and aging, caregiving, and disability; his research interests also include health disparities among people with disabilities and aging with a disability. You can read more about Dr. Crews’ research interests, along with his impressive biography, at the CDC website.

I should also mention that John is an enthusiastic, patient teacher, and an all-around great person. During our meeting breaks, John spent time with me, explaining a number of initiatives from the CDC, including a new, data-rich issue brief that explores The State of Vision, Aging, and Public Health in America.

What is the state of vision, aging, and public health in America?

The cover of The State of Vision, Aging, and Public Health in America

This helpful “issue brief” (available as a free download) summarizes the prevalence of vision loss and eye diseases reported by people aged 65 or older, and provides information about access to eye care, health status, and comorbid conditions (i.e., the presence of one or more disorders or diseases in addition to a primary disease or disorder) among older adults. Data were collected from 19 states that used the Vision Module of CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

About the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is the world’s largest ongoing telephone health survey system, tracking health conditions and risk behaviors in the United States yearly since 1984. Currently, data are collected monthly in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

The BRFSS Vision Module was developed by CDC’s Vision Health Initiative. Nineteen states have begun using it since its implementation in 2005. The Vision Module surveys adults aged 40+ and contains nine questions about visual function, eye diseases, frequency of eye examinations, and reasons for not seeking eye care.

The State of Vision, Aging, and Public Health in America reports eye and vision data for people aged 65 or older from the 19 states that implemented the Vision Module during 2006–2008: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Facts and Data about Vision Loss from the Report

The prevalence of moderate or extreme vision loss ranged from 5.4% in Tennessee to 16% in Georgia:

  • By race/ethnicity, 16.2% of older non-Hispanic black adults and 16.1% of older Hispanic adults reported moderate or extreme vision loss, compared with 11.4% of non-Hispanic white adults.
  • Older adults with moderate or extreme vision loss were more likely to report diabetes, heart disease, and stroke than those without vision loss.
  • The percentage of older adults who reported having an eye examination within the past year ranged from 69.5% in Missouri to 80.5% in Florida.
  • Older adults who report moderate or extreme vision loss are no more likely than those with no vision loss to get eye examinations.

Thank you, Dr. Crews! The State of Vision, Aging, and Public Health in America is available as a free download and contains a wealth of eye- and vision-related information that is highly relevant to the health and vision needs of older adults in the United States.