NEHW: putting optics in the spotlight
David Cartwright, chair of Eye Health UK, talked OT through the key themes for National Eye Health Week 2023
14 September 2023
As the annual campaign approaches, OT heard from David Cartwright, chair of Eye Health UK, the charity behind National Eye Health Week, about the importance of the themes selected for 2023 and how practices can get involved.
What is on your mind as we approach National Eye Health Week 2023?
National Eye Health Week (NEHW) puts optics, optical practices, optometrists, and dispensing opticians in the spotlight. I think optics is poor at raising its profile and helping people to understand what goes on in an optical practice. In the context of the backlogs following COVID-19, where fewer people had their sight tested, this is something the profession should be doing more of. NEHW is a step in the right direction.
The Eyecare Trust, under the umbrella of Eye Health UK, is focused on helping to reduce preventable sight loss, and highlighting the importance of regular sight tests, along with lifestyle factors and behaviours, can help with that.
This is a focus we carry throughout the year beyond NEHW, and I’m particularly proud of the driving and vision campaign we were part of this year.
National Eye Health Week puts optics, optical practices, optometrists, and dispensing opticians in the spotlight
What considerations went into deciding the themes this year?
Every year, there are a core group of topics that we return to, such as highlighting the importance of sight tests, the benefits of stopping smoking, and getting regular exercise. We always take an imaginative approach to these topics.
This year, there is more of a focus than there has previously been on myopia control. I think it is something that a lot of members of the public don’t understand – including parents who might be myopic themselves and have young children, but don’t know about myopia control. NEHW will highlight the topic, providing information about myopia and encouraging parents and children into practice to discuss myopia management with their optometrist.
The cost of living is a challenge for many. The Eye Q research we carried out in 2022, indicated that one of the biggest barriers to going into an optical practice is a fear of costs. The research also highlighted the fact that those living with lower incomes were less likely to get their eyes looked at than those living with higher incomes, despite the fact that some of those living with a lower income could be entitled to NHS support. One focus of the campaign will be to highlight NHS eligibility, as well as the affordability of going into an optical practice.
The research also highlighted a lack of knowledge amongst the public of what can be provided in an optical practice, such as minor eye conditions services. Part of the focus of the campaign will be to educate the public on the services available in optical practices.
This year we are introducing a photography competition. Most of us have a camera in our hands now in the form of a mobile phone and this will be a fun way to address the aims of the campaign in a new way.
We'll also release our consumer magazine, Vista. I think this year’s edition is the best I’ve seen to date. There are a huge number of informative articles, covering topics from myopia to contact lenses, to dry eye, and lifestyle features. I know personally that the magazine has longevity, because often people will tell me that they were reading it while waiting in the GP surgery or optometry practice long after the week itself.
The value that an optical practice can get from signing up and using the material is extremely good, particularly if you consider what it would cost for a practice to invest in their own marketing campaign
How can practices get involved in the 2023 campaign?
In addition to highlighting the importance of eye health, the week is advantageous for practices. If we look at other health care professions, such as pharmacy, we often see those in the news with either positive articles about services being offered, or discussing the issues that are being faced.
The value that an optical practice can get from signing up and using the material is extremely good, particularly if you consider what it would cost for a practice to invest in their own marketing campaign.
I would encourage all optical practices to visit the Vision Matters website to sign up and access the materials, which are free to users. As well as material for in-practice, the campaign offers social media resources that are a little different to what a practice might be used to be posting.
The resources can be used in practice, on social media, and shared with local communities and other healthcare practitioners. We try to emphasise that while this material is primarily designed for optical practices, it can be used by GP surgeries, pharmacies, and other organisations too. I think that the more we can educate other healthcare practitioners on what goes on in optical practices, then the more they will be positively pointing people and referring to optometry.
Three actions to prepare for National Eye Health Week
- Have a look at the Vision Matters website and sign up
- Download the materials and plan for how to use them in practice around the campaign
- Consider how to share the message with local communities and other healthcare practitioners.
The coverage that we are able to achieve, compared to how much we spend, makes the campaign extraordinarily good value. If we were to divide the cost of the campaign between the number of practices in the UK, it would be a tiny amount.
The campaign does rely on external funding. If practices would like to get involved in supporting the campaign in the future, they could consider supporting the charity through the general ophthalmic services (GOS) levy. Practices can sign up on the eGOS site to give a small amount of money each month to the Eyecare Trust and support the work going forwards.
I would love for National Eye Health Week to become a premier health event in the national calendar. I think there is still a way to go to get to that point. I’d love to see the profession come together to ensure that the campaign does become the premier health event covering eye health and the importance of regular sight tests for all.
Does your practice have plans for National Eye Health Week? Let us know or tag us on social media