Vision Care Advocacy: A View of the Americas

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The Vision Impact Institute recently published an interview on its website that VII director Kristan Gross conducted with Judith Marcano Williams, VII Program Manager, The Americas. They discuss the unique challenges and opportunities that exist in the Americas pursuing the organization’s global mission: raising awareness about the importance of vision correction and making good vision a priority.

Here are excerpts from their conversation:

Williams: In a snapshot, there are 36 countries, more than one billion people, and more than 40 languages spoken. There are stigmas around vision care, especially for girls and women, and significant economic disparities. With multiple country and state governments regulating topics related to vision care, the region holds a vast opportunity to improve vision health policies.

Gross: Given the challenges of working across multiple cultures, languages and governments, how do you set focus priorities across the region?

In keeping with the global strategy of the Vision Impact Institute, our focus in the Americas is to advocate for policy change and empower others to create change in the areas of vision and education, as well as vision and road safety. Additionally, as myopia increases at an even more alarming rate across the region, we are focused on awareness and advocacy for early intervention of myopia. Are there key research studies you have identified that empower your work or create a basis for the advocacy work you are doing in the Americas?

In the U.S., a recent study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, Making Eye Health A Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow, has been a game-changer and serves as a basis of our advocacy work for comprehensive eye exams for children before they enter kindergarten. It set a clear foundation, noting the eye exam as the “gold standard.”

The research study Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000 through 2050 clearly indicates that the Americas are at risk of a faster rise in myopia. What used to be seen as purely genetic and mostly affecting Asian populations is on the rise in developed and developing countries alike.

What topic in research would help to create the most change in your region?

In the Latin American countries specifically, there is a deficit in research around children’s vision and its link to learning, while in other countries there is a plethora of these types of studies. While one could make the leap that what’s good for one child is good for another, oftentimes, governments and other deciding bodies want and need regional and country-specific information in order to create change. While studies like Road Safety in the Americas exist, vision is left completely off the table. Research that has been done in other regions to show the relationship between good vision and road safety would be ideal to challenging the norms of licensing and road safety standards.

Click here to read the complete interview and learn more about VII and its programs.

Source: Vision Impact Institute