Newswise — Vision impairment doesn’t just affect the eyes. It leads to major challenges, such as social isolation, depression, and injuries in adults and developmental, academic, and social issues in children. People with lower socioeconomic status and poor health are at even greater risk for negative outcomes related to poor vision. And vision impairment is widespread—one model estimates more than 142 million Americans over the age of 40 have it, as well as millions more in younger populations.

“Yet, vision impairment remains notably absent from many population health agendas and community programs,” say the authors of a new report, Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow.

The report, created by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, comes out of 2 years of work analyzing a consensus study on public health approaches to reduce vision impairment. The new report issues nine concrete recommendations for improving eye and vision health and increasing health equity, which the authors hope will serve as a “framework to guide action and coordination among various—and sometimes competing—stakeholders.”

Research to Prevent Blindness and nine other organizations provided sponsorship for the study, which addresses both correctable and uncorrectable vision impairment.

The recommendations fall under five key themes:• Facilitate Public Awareness through Timely Access to Accurate and Locally Relevant Information;• Generate Evidence to Guide Policy Decisions and Evidence-based Action;• Expand Access to Appropriate Clinical Care;• Enhance Public Health Capacities to Support Vision-Related Activities; and• Promote Community Actions that Encourage Eye- and Vision-Healthy Environments.

“RPB is so pleased to have supported the work that went into developing this comprehensive and forward-looking report. Bringing eye health into population health efforts, as the data clearly shows, is an important step toward achieving equitable vision care for all. We believe that RPB can play a valuable role, working collectively with other vision-focused organizations, to get there,” said Brian F. Hofland, PhD, President, Research to Prevent Blindness.

Specifically, RPB is committed to expanding the pool of evidence-based research through the support of grants that allow researchers to target the causes of and potential treatments or cures for vision disorders that can lead to blindness. In the report, Recommendation 4 calls for grant programs led by a common research agenda, developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with public, private, and community involvement.

The report and its calls to action are “very timely because we’re on the verge of getting hit by the baby boomer generation, in their 50s and 60s,” said Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, Interim Dean, Keck School of Medicine; Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology; Director, USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute; and President, USC Care, during a report-related webinar on September 20. Dr. Varma’s comments refer to the predicted surge in age-related eye diseases such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy that will result from a growing senior population. Among several key goals coming out of the report, Dr. Varma stressed the pressing need to understand the factors that affect vision, as well as develop effective interventions.