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Prevent Blindness America Issues Call-to-Action to Make UV Eye Protection a National Health Priority
Date:9/29/2010

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Lawmakers were asked today to make protecting the eyes from ultra-violet (UV) rays a national health priority, specifically by increasing the prevalence of UV and eye-health messages coming from federal agencies, national leaders such as the Surgeon General, and in upcoming healthcare policies development. Representative Gene Green, Texas, Co-Chair of the Congressional Vision Caucus, provided the opening remarks and discussed the critical importance of making protecting our eyes from UV rays a national priority at a congressional briefing on "UV and Our Nation's Vision," hosted by Prevent Blindness America with support from Transitions Optical, Inc., through the Transitions Healthy Sight for Life Fund.

"The impact of UV rays on the eye health, productivity and quality of life of Americans is too severe to ignore, and is only going to get worse, with high exposure to UV in the environment and low awareness of the need to protect the eyes," said Rep. Green.  "We need to help Americans see that protecting their eyes from UV is as important as protecting their skin."

Despite scientific research showing that cumulative exposure to UV rays can contribute to the development of sight-stealing diseases, such as cataract and macular degeneration, Americans do not protect their eyes the way they should.  In fact, in a national survey(1), sponsored by Transitions Optical, only about one in six respondents said they wear sunglasses when they prepare for extended exposure to the sun and only approximately one-third said they wear a hat.  This is likely due to a lack of awareness, given that, although 82 percent of respondents knew that extended exposure to the sun could cause skin cancer, only 9 percent knew it could damage vision.

The congressional briefing, held today, included presentations by several eye doctors, researchers and government representatives on the detrimental and largely preventable impact of UV on eye health, and the importance of wearing eyewear such as sunglasses and photochromic lenses that block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays to reduce exposure.  Presenters also explained that the groups at highest risk for UV-related eye disease are often the least aware of the need for protection.  High-risk groups include Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans, as well as women, older Americans and children.  In addition, several of the presentations provided insights into the financial impact of UV-related eye disease on individuals, employers and the nation as a whole. Specific action urged by lawmakers includes:

  • Inclusion of UV eye protection messages in current and future government-funded education programs on related topics, such as eye- and overall- health or sun protection;
  • Research on the impact of UV on the eye as a topic of consideration for future government-funded efforts; and
  • Heightened awareness of role of vision wear in enhancing eye health and safety, as well as overall quality of life and productivity.

"We're at a critical juncture in our nation's health care system," said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America. "The decisions being made today about what is included in the health care policy will affect future generations and now is the time to ensure that eye health and UV protection are considered 'must-dos' in the health-care discussion."  

Additional presenters included Drusilla Hufford, director of the Stratospheric Protection Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Professor Kovin Naidoo, programs director for the International Center for Eyecare Education; ophthalmologist Vincent Young, chairman of the Albert Einstein Medical Center; Peter Kehoe, recent past president of the American Optometric Association; and optometrist Hector Santiago, past dean of the Arizona College of Optometry.

More information and educational resources will be maintained at SunAndVision.org.

About Prevent Blindness America

Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness America is the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight.  Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness America touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening and training, community and patient service programs and research.  These services are made possible through the generous support of the American public.  Together with a network of affiliates, divisions and chapters, Prevent Blindness America is committed to eliminating preventable blindness in America.  For more information, or to make a contribution to the sight-saving fund, call 1-800-331-2020. Or, visit us on the Web at preventblindness.org or facebook.com/preventblindness.

About the Transitions Healthy Sight for Life Fund

Transitions Optical created the Transitions Healthy Sight for Life Fund to centralize and strengthen its corporate giving endeavors, unifying them with the mission to "help preserve healthy sight for life."  To achieve this goal, funding and educational resources are provided to global, regional and local charitable organizations or efforts whose purpose is to help create awareness of the need for eye exams, eye protection and the enhancement of visual quality, and who are striving to help eliminate preventable blindness.  For more information, visit www.HealthySightforLife.org.

(1) Survey conducted on behalf of Transitions Optical, Inc. from March 9-13, 2006 by ICR, Media, Pa.


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SOURCE Prevent Blindness America
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