March, also known as “Save Your Vision” month, launches optometry’s national campaign to remind Americans of the importance of eye health and regular, comprehensive eye exams. This national health observance has been a staple in the profession for nearly 90 years. The national awareness campaign was born out of a measure called Eyesight Conservation Week in 1924 and later revised to Save Your Vision Week in 1927. Proclaimed a national health observance week by President Lyndon B Johnson in 1963, Save Your Vision Week was changed to Save Your Vision Month by an American Optometric Association’s (AOA) House of Delegates resolution in 2005.
More recently, you may have noticed radio ads and TV commercials promoting the “Think About Your Eyes” campaign. This marketing strategy from the AOA is intended to be a Public Service Announcement to educate the general public about the importance of eye care and vision in a manner that is easy to digest and promote understand of what it means to see well. In addition to the usual message of getting your eyes checked routinely, the “Think About Your Eyes” campaign educates people about the risks of binocular vision abnormalities in children as well as pathology related the diabetes and other systemic conditions that warrant an evaluation regardless of whether a person thinks their eyes are “okay.” If you look up the campaign online, you’ll find valuable resources on commonly encountered eye problems, both medical and visual. In addition, there are testimonies from teachers and other professionals discussing the importance of vision in learning for children as well as misconceptions parents have about their children’s eyes. To illustrate the success of this campaign: “Think About Your Eyes” advertising reached 95 percent of Americans between the ages of 25-49 in 2014 – totaling over 150 million American consumers. This is the largest public exposure for vision care, the AOA, and the profession of Optometry – ever!
The campaign also focuses on educating both employers and employees about how to avoid digital eye strain in the workplace. According to the AOA, 58 percent of adults have experienced digital eye strain. As optometrists, it is our responsibility to educate our patients about the symptoms of digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome. These symptoms include eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and shoulder pain. The AOA recommends five tips that can be easily implemented in most office spaces to help fight this epidemic:
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Take a 20 second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.
- Keep a distance: The AOA recommends sitting a comfortable distance from the computer where you can easily read all text with your head and torso in an upright posture and your back supported by your chair. Generally, the preferred viewing distance is between 20 and 28 inches from the eye to the front surface of the screen.
- View from a different angle: Ideally, the computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees, or about 4 to 5 inches, below eye level as measured from the center of the screen.
- Decrease glare: While there is no way to completely minimize glare from light sources, consider using a glare filter. These filters decrease the amount of light reflected from the screen.
- Blink often: Minimize your chances of developing dry eyes when using a computer by making an effort to blink frequently.
I would encourage our society’s optometrists to maximize on the exposure of this national campaign to reinforce the OD’s distinction as primary eye care doctors. You can capitalize on the growing conversation in consumer media by factoring “Think About your Eyes” into your practice’s marketing strategy. Materials such as customizable articles, press releases, and social media content are available on AOA’s website.