Applying a Public Health Lens to Vision Health

No fooling here! April 1st kicks off National Public Health Week, and Sightpath Medical is excited to join in on the conversation.

What does Healthy People 2020 say about vision health?

Healthy People 2020 is a federal government program that has set 10-year national health goals for the past three decades. The mission strives to:

  • Identify nationwide health improvement priorities.
  • Increase public awareness and understanding of the determinants of health, disease, and disability and the opportunities for progress.
  • Provide measurable objectives and goals that are applicable at the national, state, and local levels.
  • Engage multiple sectors to take actions to strengthen policies and improve practices that are driven by the best available evidence and knowledge.
  • Identify critical research, evaluation, and data collection needs.

Vision health is often looked over in the public health sector — but not in Healthy People 2020. The program identified 14 measurable objectives as priorities for improving the nation’s vision health. Overall, vision health is exceeding their 2020 goals in half of the objectives, so there is still room for improvement in this final year.

You can read about all the objectives here. Below, we’ve summarized some of the main findings:

Vision Screening

Let’s start with the positive. Over the last nine years, we’ve increased the proportion of children aged five years or younger who have received a vision screening by 10%. These screenings help identify any visual impairment before children enter school.

Adolescent Visual Impairment

One objective the country isn’t meeting is a reduction in blindness and visual impairment in children and adolescents ages 17 and under. There has been a drastic increase in the last nine years —currently, 35 per 1,000 children or adolescents have some sort of visual impairment.

Cataract Visual Impairment

Healthcare access and advanced technology mean that more people are living long enough to develop cataracts. In 2017, the U.S. population saw about 141 per 1,000 people aged 65+ that had visual impairment because of a cataract, falling below Healthy 2020’s goal.

The public health approach for this issue is simple: increasing the accessibility of cataract surgeons and promoting healthy behaviors like a well-balanced diet, not smoking, and wearing protective sunglasses.

As National Public Health Week begins, start to think about how your practice approaches vision health and how you can be a changemaker in your community! For more information about public health’s role in ophthalmology, keep an eye on our blog.