Building A Better Community
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.
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,
Lions Clubs International: lionsclubs.org
Prevent Blindness America:
Optometric Management, Issue: November 2005