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AEVR Releases Attitudinal Survey, Vision and Blindness Fact Sheet

The Release Panel (identified in image below) discussed the survey findings and answered questions from the media and representatives from the vision community
The Release Panel (identified in image below) discussed the survey findings and answered questions from the media and representatives from the vision community
On September 18, in recognition of both Healthy Aging Month and International Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Week, the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research’s (AEVR) Decade of Vision 2010-2020 Initiative released results of a new poll The Public’s Attitudes about the Health and Economic Impact of Vision Loss and Eye Disease and a new Vision and Blindness fact sheet at a National Press Club event in Washington, D.C. The poll, commissioned by Research!America and conducted by Zogby Analytics was sponsored by a grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB).

The poll, the most rigorous conducted to-date of attitudes about vision and vision loss among racial groups including non-Hispanic Whites, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans, found, in part, that:

  • a significant number of Americans across all racial lines rate losing their eyesight as having the greatest impact on their daily life, affecting independence, productivity and quality of life.
  • African Americans, when asked what disease of ailment is the worst that could happen, ranked blindness first, followed by HIV/AIDS. Hispanics and Asians ranked cancer first and blindness second, while non-Hispanic Whites ranked Alzheimer’s disease first, followed by blindness.
  • A significant number across all racial lines were aware of the impact of genetics on vision, as well as lifestyle factors such as excessive sunlight/UV radiation, obesity, and smoking.
  • Knowledge about specific eye diseases was uneven. More than half of all groups had heard of cataracts and glaucoma but fewer were aware of diabetic eye disease and AMD.
  • America’s minority populations are united in the view that not only is eye and vision research very important and needs to be a national priority, but many feel that the current federal funding of $2.10 per-person, per-year is not enough and should be increased.

The Release Panel members, moderated by CBS News Correspondent Michelle Miller, provided their perspectives on study results and responded to questions from the media and vision community members, which included discussion of the impact of federal funding cuts—especially on young investigators, the latest National Eye Institute (NEI)–funded research to address major eye diseases, and the importance of individuals taking responsibility for their own eye health compliance with medication, awareness of lifestyle impact). Selected pull quotes include:

Left to right: Neil Bressler, M.D. (Wilmer Eye Institute/ Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), James Tsai, M.D. (New York Eye and Ear Infirmary /Mount Sinai Health System)Karla Zadnik, O.D., Ph.D. (Ohio State University College of Optometry), NEI Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., and moderator Michelle Miller (CBS News)
Left to right: Karla Zadnik, O.D., Ph.D. (Ohio State University College of Optometry), James Tsai, M.D. (New York Eye and Ear Infirmary /Mount Sinai Health System), NEI Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., Neil Bressler, M.D. (Wilmer Eye Institute/ Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), and moderator Michelle Miller (CBS News)
Dr. Bressler:
“We knew in the 1990s from patients engaged in NEI-funded clinical studies on AMD and Diabetic Retinopathy how much they value their vision. This latest study confirms that value along all racial lines. It also confirms that we still have much to do to get the word out about eye disease.”
Dr. Sieving:
“We are now in a new space in eye care where there are solutions. But about half of patients with these diseases do not know they have them. NEI’s National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) will continue its eye health education awareness, tailoring unique messages to specific ethnic communities at risk for eye disease.
Dr. Zadnik:
“To accomplish research, we need the best and brightest. This year, since a training grant was not available from NEI due to budget cuts, Ohio State self-funded our annual summer program to interest young optometry students in research. We feel that this is an investment with high pay-off.”
Dr. Tsai:
“We can now give hope to patients who previously had no hope. Although the federal investment in the NEI provides seed funding for potential breakthroughs, we need private philanthropy and industry to invest and enable those opportunities to ‘explode’ into exciting new therapies for patients.”

Watch the Release Event here.

Later that day, panelist Dr. Bressler spoke at AEVR’s International AMD Awareness Week Congressional Briefing, sharing poll results with attendees and addressing the impact of aging eye disease.

Dr. Sieving with RPB President Brian Hofland, Ph.D.
Dr. Sieving with RPB President Brian Hofland, Ph.D.
Private funding foundation RPB led the national advocacy that resulted in Congress creating the NEI as a free-standing institute within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1968. RPB also conducted the first-ever attitudinal survey on vision and vision loss in 1965, and in that and subsequent updates in 1976 and 1988 found that the public consistently identified fear of vision loss as second only to fear of cancer. With release of the most recent data fifty years later, it is clear that vision loss is top-of-mind among most Americans with respect to their quality of life.

 

The new Vision and Blindness fact sheet includes current eye disorder prevalence and cost data, as well as that projected to year 2050, derived from recent studies conducted by Prevent Blindness. It also presents the latest NEI-funded breakthrough vision research. Paul D’Addario, who was blinded by Retinitis Pigmentosa, offers a patient perspective. He wears an Argus II Retinal Prosthesis that enables him to see flashes of light that his brain translates into outlines of objects.

Jo Olson (ARVO), a member of AEVR’s Working Group on the poll/fact sheet, with Paul D’Addario, a patient whose perspective is featured on the fact sheet
Jo Olson (ARVO), a member of AEVR’s Working Group on the poll/fact sheet, with Paul D’Addario, a patient whose perspective is featured on the fact sheet
From left: Arthur Makar (Fight for Sight), Jeff Todd (Prevent Blindness and a member of the AEVR Working Group) and Sandra Blackwood  (International Retinal Research Foundation)
From left: Arthur Makar (Fight for Sight), Jeff Todd (Prevent Blindness and a member of the AEVR Working Group) and Sandra Blackwood (International Retinal Research Foundation)
Dr. Sieving with Torrey DeKeyser (EyeSight Foundation of Alabama)
Dr. Sieving with Torrey DeKeyser (EyeSight Foundation of Alabama)
Adiv Johnson, Ph.D. (Mayo Clinic, center) with AEVR’s James Jorkasky and David Epstein. Dr. Johnson participated in Minnesota Congressional office visits during the Rally for Medical Research Advocacy Day.
Adiv Johnson, Ph.D. (Mayo Clinic, center) with AEVR’s James Jorkasky and David Epstein. Dr. Johnson participated in Minnesota Congressional office visits during the Rally for Medical Research Advocacy Day held later that day.