A Healthier Future for West Virginia - Healthy People 2010
WV HP 2010
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28 - Vision and Hearing

Objectives | References


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.

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The Objectives

OBJECTIVE 28.1. (Developmental) Increase the proportion of persons 18 and over who have a dilated eye examination at appropriate intervals.
(Baseline data available in 2003)

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.

OBJECTIVE 28.2. (Developmental) Increase the proportion of preschool children aged 3 to 5 who receive a vision screening. (Baseline data available in 2003)

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.

OBJECTIVE 28.3. (Developmental) Reduce visual impairment due to glaucoma. (Baseline data available in 2003)

Data Source: West Virginia Medical Institute (WVMI), Medicare/Medicaid data

OBJECTIVE 28.4. (Developmental) Reduce visual impairment due to cataract. (Baseline data available in 2003)

Data Source: WVMI, Medicare/Medicaid data

OBJECTIVE 28.5. Reduce occupational eye injury. (Baseline: 567 per 100,000 workers for FY 1998)

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:

  • Worksites
  • Schools
  • Public Health Programs
  • Networks
  • Health Care System
  • Higher Education

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 goals.

Work Group Members

Norma Bowyer, OD, MS, MPH, FAAO, Work Group Co-Leader, Public Health Optometric Consultant
J. Vernon Odom, PhD, Work Group Co-Leader, Department of Ophthalmology, WVU
Thomas Griffith, OD, Optometrist
Anne Harmon, RN, WVU Center on Aging
Joseph Locascio, MD, Ophthalmologist, President, West Virginia Academy of Ophthalmology
Bill Davis, President, West Virginia AARP
Thekla Lund, school nurse, Kanawha County Schools
Annette Carey, WV Department of Education
Bobbi Zaunbrecher, Executive Director, Prevent Blindness America of West Virginia
Geoffrey Bradford, MD, Pediatric Ophthalmology, Department of Ophthalmology, WVU

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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
1 Medical Center Drive
Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center of West Virginia University
P.O. Box 9193
Morgantown, WV 26506-9193
Phone: (304) 598-4820

Prevent Blindness America of West Virginia
419 10th Avenue
Huntington, WV 25701
Phone: (304) 525-9988; Fax: (304) 525-4443

West Virginia Optometric Association
815 Quarrier Street, Suite 345
Charleston, WV 25301-2616
Phone: (304) 345-4710; Fax: (304) 346-6416

West Virginia Academy of Ophthalmology
Suite 220
2110 Kanawha Blvd., East
Charleston, WV 25330
Phone: (304) 343-5842

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This page was last updated June 28, 2001.
For additional information about HP2010, contact Chuck Thayer at (304) 558-0644 or Chuck.E.Thayer@wv.gov