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Despite the importance of eyesight, millions of people grapple with undiagnosed or untreated vision impairments—ranging from mild conditions to total blindness—and eye and vision health remain relatively absent from national health priority lists, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Vision loss in adults is associated with increased risk of falls and injuries, social isolation, depression, and other psychological problems and can amplify the adverse effects of other chronic illnesses, increasing the risk for all-cause and injury-related mortality. Similarly, undiagnosed or uncorrected refractive errors and other visual disorders in children can lead to developmental, academic, and social challenges, and in some cases permanent vision loss, which has lifelong implications.
In 2014, the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a multidisciplinary committee to “examine the core principles and public health strategies to reduce visual impairment and promote eye health in the United States,” including short- and long-term strategies to prioritize eye and vision health through collaborative actions across a variety of topics, settings, community stakeholders, and levels of government. This report proposes a population health action framework to guide action and coordination among various—and sometimes competing—stakeholders in pursuit of improved eye and vision health and health equity in the United States. This report also introduces a population-health approach that promotes eye and vision health far beyond the clinical setting, with an emphasis on minimizing preventable and uncorrected impairment. It also a model for action that highlights different levels of prevention activities across a range of stakeholders and provides specific examples of how population health strategies can be translated into cohesive areas for action at federal, state, and local levels.