Vision: A True and Urgent Global Issue

The Jobson Optical Group is the leading business-to-business information company in the global eyewear and eyecare industry. The Group publishes 20/20 Magazine, Vision Monday, VMail, FramesData, Review of Optometry, Review of Ophthalmology and Review of Optometric Business.

Recently, I spoke with the Group Editor, Andrew Karp, who answered my questions.

How did you discover the Vision Impact Institute?

As a journalist who has been covering the ophthalmic lens and lens technology side of the industry for many years, I was excited to learn that Essilor had formed the VII and named you as director, because you have the knowledge and understanding to help the organization draw attention to the often overlooked but serious economic and social problems, caused by poor vision.

You said at the end of your column (April 2014) that you cannot think of “a more compelling reason to get regular eye exams”. How did you come to such a conclusion?

I was drawing a parallel between the impact of poor vision on a macro level, which is what VII studies, and the impact of poor vision on a micro, individual level, which is what eye care professionals see. When eye care professionals encounter a patient who is suffering from poor vision, they can show the patient not just the financial impact, but the impact on their quality of life. Think about someone who has limited night vision who can no longer drive after dark, or who cannot play the piano anymore because they have a hard time seeing the sheet music. These people are paying a cost, even though it might not be a financial cost. So it’s important for them to get an eye exam regularly so their vision problems can be detected, diagnosed and treated. Of course, it’s also important for medical reasons to have regular eye exams

How do you collect information on the impact of poor vision in the United States?

Organizations such as Prevent Blindness America, the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology study the impact of poor vision and have developed programs to educate consumers about ocular health.

Can you explain why so few key political and public health leaders are aware of the situation (e.g. the avoidable annual direct cost of falls and hip fractures among vision impaired elderly in the US)?

It may be that the lack of awareness is because some other public health problems may be seen as more urgent. However, that may soon change as many millions of Baby Boomers start to encounter vision problems.

What kind of initiatives could help raise awareness on these figures and data to key influencers around the world? 

The push needs to come from below rather than from the top down, before key decision makers will take action. Perhaps a public awareness campaign featuring celebrities and other high profile people who have had vision problems would help move vision care to the top of the public health agenda worldwide. The theme would be, “How Much is Poor Vision Costing You?”

What could be done at the ECP Eye Care Professional level?

ECPs need tools to help them communicate the importance of good ocular health to individual patients. The current public awareness campaign being conducted in the U.S., “Think About Your Eyes”, which is being supported by a number of industry organizations and suppliers, is a step in the right direction.

Could you share your point of view about the Vision Impact Institute?

The VII is filling a knowledge gap with its research and its public relations efforts. I applaud your efforts to point out the cost of poor vision and hope it will result in actions that will help remedy this pressing global issue.