Article Date: 11/1/2005

09_05nOD_StreetSmartsRedesign

Building A Better Community
Donating your time and skills to patients in need can expand your optometric experience.
BY ALEXIS MALKIN

AS OPTOMETRISTS, we should contribute to public health programs. Whether we're regulating the distribution of contact lenses or ensuring that all members of our community have access to the care that they need, we can do our part toward creating a healthy community.

Get Involved

At the New England College of Optometry, all first-year students complete public health awareness projects as part of the curriculum. Over the course of a semester, groups of students produce posters about their chosen topic, such as "Evaluating Vision Testing Standards for Driving Licensure in the United States"  and "Overlooking Vision-related Learning Problems: The Misdiagnosis of AD(H)D." Our annual in-house poster session helps us recognize the many facets of public health and inspires us to integrate this knowledge into our professional careers. As more outreach programs are implemented, optometry can count itself among the health professions that engage in major public health efforts.

How can we get involved? We can participate in public health endeavors in the United States and abroad. Options include traveling to other countries with Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity International (V/I), volunteering with Prevent Blindness America or working with Lions Club International. Or we can work toward creating a healthier local community by educating patients about proper contact lens wear, compliance and the importance of annual eye exams. We're even involved in public health when we help formulate federal contact lens regulations, when we follow these regulations in our practice and when we carefully choose appropriate eyeglass lens materials for children and others who need extra eye protection.

Beyond Individual Benefits

On another level, taking care of people's vision protects their general health and well-being. Visually impaired elderly people are five times more likely to experience a serious fall and develop a number of related complications. Good vision reduces the risk of falling, and improves elderly patients' ability to maintain overall health. Other benefits of good vision include better cardiovascular health and a reduced risk of social isolation.

We can incorporate public health services into our practices by understanding our role as healthcare professionals. We can work toward the goals of Healthy Vision 2010 and keep optometry at the forefront of public health efforts throughout the United States and Canada.

By ensuring that someone can drive or read the newspaper in the morning, we are improving individual health and working toward healthier communities. nOD

For more information about volunteer organizations, see:

Lions Clubs International: lionsclubs.org
Prevent Blindness America: preventblindness.org
VOSH/International: VOSH.org



Optometric Management, Issue: November 2005