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A Healthier Future for West Virginia - Healthy People 2010
Federal 2010 Initiative
28 - Vision and Hearing
West Virginians must seek and receive basic vision and eye care services that include not only health and visual performance evaluations but also include occupational eye safety and injury prevention. Good vision becomes more important each day as the nation continues to develop a large segment of the economy around high technology industries.
Many of the state's infants and young children are at high risk for vision problems because of hereditary, prenatal, or perinatal factors. These individuals need to be identified and tested early and periodically to assure their visual system is functioning maximally and not impeding normal learning. The state's children need comprehensive vision evaluations before beginning school to insure their visual wellness and readiness for learning.
In addition, vision and eye care are important issues in West Virginia because of its status as the oldest state in the nation. The leading causes of visual impairment are diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. Vision and eye care services are critically important to maintaining independence and quality of life in the later years. Access to basic vision and eye health services along with specialty care in the areas of vision rehabilitative services and assistive living techniques, devices, and knowledge must be available for seniors and others with limited vision to maintain independent living.
West Virginia is one of the states with the highest prevalence of diabetes mellitus. This is partially attributable to a larger aging population, attenuated by a population with a predominately sedentary lifestyle, inadequate nutrition, common genetic heritage, lower socioeconomic factors, and lack of access to proper medical and health care. Obesity also is a known risk factor for diabetes, as well as other common health conditions including heart disease and strokes, which themselves can result in visual complications. West Virginians with diabetes have an increased risk of blindness, kidney disorders, and amputations. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in individuals 29 to 74 years of age. Periodic eye examinations and treatment have been shown to be effective against preventing the ocular complications of many of these cases of diabetes. Both personal and societal costs of diabetes can be prevented or reduced with access to timely vision and eye care.
West Virginia is a beautiful state to see. This is appreciated by no one more than the sportsman, hunter, or naturalist who explores, examines, and enjoys the abundant natural wildlife and natural resources of the Mountain State. Recreational safety programs could help prevent many of the annual cases of vision loss due to sporting activities, firecrackers, ATV accidents, and other preventable eye injuries around the home.
All of these factors, in addition to West Virginia's rurality and status as one of the poorest states in the nation, add additional challenges to the state's already limited public health resources. The issue of rurality goes to the heart of access to health and wellness in this rugged mountainous state. West Virginia, a state with many narrow two-lane roads for its residents to travel, only began building a four-lane interstate system of highways within recent decades .
Additionally, West Virginia is one of the few states that has not benefited proportionately from the recent national economic period of prosperity. Research repeatedly demonstrates that the number one indicator of health status is socioeconomic status. This is readily apparent within the state of West Virginia.
There are many challenges ahead in achieving the vision and eye health objectives set forth here. By working to achieve these objectives the lives of all West Virginians can be enhanced through state and local initiatives, public-private partnerships, professional and civic organizations, and faith-based organizations.
By improving vision and eye health status over the next 10 years through the objectives set forth here, West Virginians will be able to enjoy their state's unique beauty and actively participate in life.Top of Page
Data Source: West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, Office of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
Many eye diseases and disorders have no symptoms or early warning signs. Dilated eye exams should be performed at appropriate intervals to detect changes in the retina or optic nerve or both. Eye care professionals can view the back of the eye for subtle changes and, if necessary, initiate treatment at the right time. Meeting this objective is perhaps the single best means to meet the other objectives set.
Data Sources: West Virginia Preschool Vision Screening Program, West Virginia University (WVU) Eye Institute; Prevent Blindness America of West Virginia
Many vision problems begin well before children reach school. Every effort must be made to ensure that, before they reach age 5 years, children receive a screening exam from their health care provider. Early recognition of disease results in more effective treatment that can be sight-saving or in some cases even life-saving.
Data Source: West Virginia Medical Institute (WVMI), Medicare/Medicaid data
Data Source: WVMI, Medicare/Medicaid data
Data Source: West Virginia Bureau of Employment Programs, Research, Information & Analysis Division, West Virginia Workers Compensation Annual Report
Meeting the Objectives
Health Promotion Channels for Achieving Objectives:
The Vision Work Group agreed that one essential element in the long-term success of the Vision goals is the development of a coalition to promote vision health within West Virginia. Only the coordinated efforts of such a coalition can effectively marshal the scarce resources of a small, rural state. The coalition would consist of all interested groups and should meet on a regular quarterly or semi-annual basis. The exact membership will be determined by interest and commitment. To promote such a coalition, the WVU Eye Institute has agreed to sponsor a Healthy Vision West Virginia web site that will highlight the vision-related goals of Healthy People 2010 and will link to involved organizations.
Further actions that are likely to positively impact the future developments of vision-related goals are the beginning of preschool screening programs by Prevent Blindness America of West Virginia and the WVU Eye Institute. Both of these groups have committed themselves to developing other screening programs as well. They have also agreed to share their information on their screening activities with the Healthy People program.
The success of these programs as well as programs initatied by the state
and other organizations can have a major impact on the success of the
Work Group Members
Norma Bowyer, OD, MS, MPH, FAAO, Work Group Co-Leader, Public
Health Optometric Consultant
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010. (conference Edition, in Two Volumes). Washington, DC: January 2000.
"Epidemiology of compensable work-related ocular injuries and illnesses: incidence and risk factors." JOEM 42, no. 6 (June 2000): 575.
West Virginia Bureau of Employment Programs, Research, Information & Analysis Division. West Virginia Workers Compensation Annual Reports, 1998 and 1999. Charleston, WV: 1999, 2000.
For More Information
West Virginia University Eye Institute
Prevent Blindness America of West Virginia
West Virginia Optometric Association
West Virginia Academy of Ophthalmology
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This page was last updated June 28, 2001.