NAEVR Meets with US Surgeon General to Advance Vision and Eye Health

From left: United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH and Deputy Surgeon General Erica Schwartz, MD, JD
From left: United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH and Deputy Surgeon General Erica Schwartz, MD, JD

On June 13, vision community organization and federal agency representatives (see box below), including NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky, met under the auspices of VISION 2020 USA with Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH and Deputy Surgeon General Erica Schwartz, MD, JD, to discuss a Call to Action for vision and eye health in the United States, per recommendations that resulted from the September 2016 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report entitled Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow. NAEVR served as a NASEM report sponsor.

The meeting was held in response to a January 14, 2019, letter sent by VISION 2020 USA on behalf of 26 signatory organizations requesting that the Surgeon General initiate a national Call to Action for vision and eye health to mark the year 2020. The NASEM report was developed over two years and authored by a 15-member expert panel. It provides a detailed assessment of the importance of vision and the need to evaluate, monitor, and protect eye health to reduce vision impairment and achieve better health quality of life and equity for all Americans. It made nine specific recommendations for a national strategy to eliminate correctable and avoidable vison impairments in the U.S. by the year 2030, including four of which are federal government-related (see box below), including a Call to Action.

Highlights of the conversation included:

  • Dr. Adams encouraged the vision community to ensure that vision was not “siloed” – that it should integrate within other HHS programs and its relationship to major chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.

  • Options for Surgeon General action include a Call to Action, a Surgeon General’s Report, or an Advisory, none of which are mutually exclusive. In offering advice on these routes, he cautioned that each should convey tangible activities and not just be commemorative gestures around year 2020.

At the end of the meeting, the vision community organization representatives discussed potential next steps and timing.

Federal Government-related NASEM Report recommendations:

  • The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) should issue a Call to Action to motivate nationwide action toward achieving a reduction in the
    burden of vision impairment across the lifespan of people in the United States.

  • The DHHS Secretary should launch a coordinated Public Awareness Campaign in collaboration with other federal agencies and departments, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, professional organizations, employers, state and local health agencies, and the media.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should develop a Coordinated Surveillance System for Eye and Vision Health in the U.S.

  • The DHHS Secretary should create an Interagency Workgroup, including a wide range of public, private, and community stakeholders, to develop a common research agenda and coordinated eye and vision health research and demonstration grant programs that target the leading causes, consequences, and unmet need of vision impairment.

VISION 2020 USA, which organized the meeting, is an alliance of over forty U.S.-based professional, academic, and non-governmental organizations working together and speaking with one voice to assure quality eye health for all people. Representatives at the meeting included:

Federal Agency:
Kristina Beaugh, MPH National Eye Institute (NEI)
Maria Zacharias NEI
Jinan B. Saaddine, MD, MPH Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Vision Community Organization:
David Glasser, MD American Academy of Ophthalmology
Lori Grover, OD, PhD American Optometric Association
Alan R. Morse, PhD, JD Lighthouse Guild
James Jorkasky, MBA National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research
Jeff Todd, JD Prevent Blindness
Sandra S. Block, OD, MPH Illinois College of Optometry (NASEM Report Committee)
Mitchell Brinks, MD, MPH VISION 2020 USA