Supporting Advocacy Efforts through Research

May is a busy month for advocacy efforts in vision health. This month we are doing our part to honor and observe Healthy Vision Month and to highlight the National Organization for Youth Safety, which recognizes Global Youth Traffic Safety Month. Both are important causes, and while seemingly unrelated, they are in fact very much intertwined.

For instance, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the leading cause of death for teens today is unfortunately traffic crashes. This public health epidemic has devastating numbers and statistics resulting. Approximately 3,500 teens lost their lives last year and more than one thousand 15-20 year olds died in traffic crashes in the summer of 2011. To fight out against this epidemic, Global Youth Traffic Safety Month was created with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (which supports the United Nations Global Road Safety Week). This month-long campaign challenges teens to engage in traffic safety projects within their communities.

But did you know research shows 60% of road accidents can be linked to poor or impaired vision. In Europe the consequences have proven to be costly. The price of road accidents linked to poor vision came in at a costly 18 billion Euros per year. Today, road traffic crashes are the 8th leading cause of death globally. If this sweeping epidemic is not stopped, we could see this statistic grow to be the 5th leading cause of death by 2030. As influencers within our industry, we must address the correlation between vision impairment and socio economic impact, including traffic accidents.

These statistics place an even greater importance on Healthy Vision Month, which is a cause close to our organization. Since 2003, the National Eye Institute (NEI) has led the charge in public-facing advocacy for vision health in the United States. During Healthy Vision Month, the NEI encourages everyone to make their eyes and eye health a priority. In fact, 75% of vision loss is preventable. We hope these studies and statistics related to the effects of uncorrected refractive error simplify your advocacy efforts.

While these statistics are alarming, they are generally unknown by the public or often by stakeholders in our field. As a result, we would like to champion the calls to action of both the NEI and NOYS and encourage you to utilize our growing collection of research to help support your cause. With these two significant advocacy campaigns this month, I hope we can continue to encourage dialogue within our community and beyond.

Maureen Cavanagh

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