Although global blindness has been reduced in recent years, some eye conditions—such as diabetes, glaucoma, uncorrected refractive error and age-related macular degeneration are on the rise. They pose growing threats to the vision of millions, mainly in developed countries. These conditions can be treated and even prevented in some cases, but they need to be treated before it is too late. Without sufficient education and awareness, millions of people do not realize they have a condition that needs treatment, or they do not know what to do. A widespread, culturally-relevant and easily-understandable eye health education program is needed around the world.
In 1991 and 2008 the U.S. National Eye Institute (NEI), with grant support from SightFirst, conducted surveys to assess the American public’s knowledge, attitudes and practices towards eye health and disease. The results from the 1991 survey prompted NEI to launch the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP), which translates research findings into public education initiatives. The survey also led to the establishment of the Lions Eye Health Program (LEHP).
LEHP is a community-based eye health education program that allows Lions clubs, community organizations and individuals to promote healthy vision and raise awareness of the causes of preventable vision loss. The mission of LEHP is to empower communities to save sight through the early detection and timely treatment of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease, encourage those at- risk to undergo a dilated eye exam and educate those with low vision and their caregivers about the condition.
SightFirst develops national-level eye health education programs where public health messages encourage at-risk populations to use existing eye care services. SightFirst provides eye health education resources to enhance its other projects.
Priorities for projects in middle and high-income countries: establishing national-level eye health education initiatives where adequate eye care services exist; projects should closely model existing Lions programs such as LEHP Australia.
Priorities for projects in low-income countries: supporting the development of comprehensive eye care systems by incorporating culturally-relevant and accurate eye health education activities into SightFirst projects.
In general, SightFirst projects must focus on the major causes of blindness on national or large regional levels. These projects reach populations who are underserved or who have limited or no access to eye health care services. The program funds high-quality, sustainable projects that deliver eye care services, develop infrastructure, train personnel and/or provide rehabilitation and education in underserved communities.
Find more information, including the SightFirst grant application, disease-specific questionnaires and long-range policy papers.