From baking challenges, to top tips and the latest in research: optometry recognises NEHW

OT  heard from just a few of the organisations preparing activities through National Eye Health Week from 19–25 September

person with megaphone
Getty/Rudzhan Nagiev
National Eye Health Week is being recognised across optometry through social media, in-person events and virtual challenges.

A revised programme for the awareness week, held 19 to 25 September, was announced after the death of Queen Elizabeth II on 9 September and the following 10-day mourning period.

Themes for the week range from vision and driving, to children’s eye health, and to eye health and the menopause.

Friday will mark the launch of the Eye Q Report, encouraging the public to consider “how smart we are when it comes to looking after our vision and eye health,” while the weekend will see themes including minor eye conditions and living with low vision.

Run, walk, cycle or bake with Vision Care for Homeless People

Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP) supporters will be participating in a variety of challenges during the week, encouraging colleagues across optics to get involved by joining in or sponsoring others.

A virtual ‘Coast to Coast’ 171 mile challenge aims to “get everyone in optics moving,” Alison Gordon, VCHP community fundraiser, said, “it might be walking, cycling or running but it can all be completed via Strava individually or as a team.”

The charity hopes participants can raise £1 for each mile covered, with Gordon sharing: “apart from raising funds, this is a great way to reach out to people who may not know anything about the work that VCHP does.”

Alternatively, the charity has invited supporters to host a ‘Healthy Eyes’ cake sale and coffee morning, aimed at students returning to university and businesses returning to the office, or as a way for practices to reach out to patients on a community level. 

The charity has recommended that if supporters aren’t able to host a coffee morning this week, World Homeless Day on 10 October would provide another opportunity.

“This is another great talking point and an opportunity to throw a spotlight on the plight of people who are living in the worst possible way, here in the UK. All funds raised go directly to helping those who need help. It may be just a sight test and pair of glasses but sometimes it is the start to seeing a better future,” Gordon said.

Encouraging regular appointments with Glaucoma UK

Glaucoma UK is encouraging the public to book an eye test if they have not had one in the past two years.

In a video shared to social media, Professor Gus Gazzard, director of glaucoma service at Moorfields Eye Hospital and president of the UK and Éire Glaucoma Society (UKEGS), highlighted the importance of “going to the optometrist for an eye health check, just as most people visit a dentist once or twice every couple of years.”

This is particularly important for people with a family history of glaucoma, the charity suggested.

Speaking to OT, Joanne Creighton, chief executive of Glaucoma UK, explained: “Over 700,000 people in the UK have glaucoma. Half of those people don’t know they have it because the disease can be symptomless. Sadly, any vision lost to glaucoma cannot be recovered.”

Creighton emphasised that, for most people, the only way to tell if they have glaucoma will be by having an eye test.

“That’s why this National Eye Health Week, we will be highlighting the importance of regular eye tests. Our aim is to encourage people to have an eye test every two years, even if they haven’t been experiencing any problems with their vision,” Creighton said. “The earlier glaucoma is detected, the sooner treatment can begin, and the more sight can potentially be saved.”

This National Eye Health Week, we will be highlighting the importance of regular eye tests

Joanne Creighton, chief executive of Glaucoma UK

Validating the 20-20-20 rule with Aston University

To coincide with, and to help raise awareness of, National Eye Health Week, Aston University has released the findings of new research confirming the benefit of the 20-20-20 guidance in easing some of the symptoms of prolonged screen use.

Researchers at Aston University’s College of Health and Life Sciences established the study with 29 participants who suffer from symptoms of eye strain and used special software on their own laptops to monitor their gaze direction and to check the guidance was being followed.

The two-week study found a marked decrease in symptoms, including dryness, sensitivity and discomfort.

This research scientifically validates the 20-20-20 rule for the first time, the university said.

Aston University is also engaging with the awareness week through social media, including sharing information and videos on its platforms, highlighting existing projects and promoting the Aston Eye Clinic.

The University’s Research and Knowledge Exchange is addressing topics on common eye conditions, and promoting the Aston Eye Clinic.

Marking the theme of ‘children’s vision’ on 21 September, Health and Life Sciences at Aston University shared the background behind the Villa Vision project, which involved undertaking research with local communities to understand barriers to accessing eye health services. Read more about the project on OT

Celebrating local support with Berkshire Vision

Berkshire Vision, which supports visually impaired children and adults across the county, will be taking part in local radio interviews as part of National Eye Health Week.

The charity said it aimed to “share with the community the importance of having a regular eye test, and some information about eye health that they might not have considered, such as how the menopause can affect it.”

To end the week, the charity will host a stand in The Oracle Shopping Centre in Reading, where the team will be handing out information on the importance of a regular eye check, encouraging people to book an appointment, and providing information on how the organisation provides support and services to people who are struggling with their sight.

Championing assistive technology

Julian Jackson, founder and director of VisionBridge, an independent social enterprise that champions assistive technology, celebrated the inclusion of assistive technology as a theme for National Eye Health Week.

“Let’s not forget about those who may heed NEHW’s eye health advice but who still have to manage their low vision, temporary sight loss or blindness and the role that assistive technology can play in their rehabilitation and improvement in their quality of life,” Jackson said.

“Assistive technology is certainly not a panacea for sight loss,” he continued, but added: “At VisionBridge we strongly believe that it can greatly mitigate the effects of sight loss and support mental health and emotional wellbeing.”

As part of VisionBridge’s mission to “widen access to appropriate technologies,” Jackson highlighted a number of companies that offer devices and solutions to support people with visual impairment.

This week is an opportunity for us to reinforce the importance of regular eye tests, and to share tips on how to take care of your eye health

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Reinforcing eye care messages with Moorfields

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is sharing tips and advice on caring for eye health.
Highlighting that more than two million people in the UK are living with avoidable sight loss, Moorfields shared: “this week is an opportunity for us to reinforce the importance of regular eye tests, and to share tips on how to take care of your eye health.”

Advice includes ‘KnowYourDrops’, encouraging patients to remember to follow instructions on how and when to administer their eye drops, as well as contact lens care advice and recommendations on diet and lifestyle factors.

Protecting against the risk of falls with OutsideClinic

OutsideClinic has also been sharing tips on social media explaining how patients can best protect their vision, as well as highlighting the importance of regular eye tests.

Sophie Bale, social media executive at OutsideClinic, said: “These will cover the importance of getting a regular eye test to protect against the risk of falls, why it is important to take regular breaks when watching a screen, and how a healthy diet can help protect against sight issues." 

Outreach and support with ABA Leeds

The Association of Blind Asians (ABA) Leeds, which provides support to people with visual impairment from BAME communities, held a National Eye Health Week Roadshow on 20 September.

Aiming to increase awareness of the importance of eye health, the roadshow included stalls from Breaking Down Barriers, Optelec UK, the William Merritt Centre, and the Leeds Hearing and Sight Loss Service.

Lord Mayor Councillor Robert Gettings, and the Lady Mayoress Councillor Lesley Gettings, attended the roadshow, along with Councillor Gohar Almass Khan.

On social media, the organisation celebrated the success of the event “promoting eye health and accessible services for people with vision impairments.” 

The organisation has also been hosting stalls at the Leeds Beckett Students’ Union Freshers Fair.

Is your practice taking part in National Eye Health Week? Why not share your activities for the week by tagging @OptometryToday in your tweets?