Vision and Eye Health in Population Health

The National Eye Institute: Research and Population Health

The National Eye Institute (NEI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the premier federal research agency for vision and eye health. Prevent Blindness played a role in the founding of the NEI in 1968 by advocating to Congress for the need to have an agency within the NIH that is charged with protecting and prolonging the collective vision of the American people. Since its founding, the NEI has been responsible for numerous innovations through advanced clinical trials, and progressing the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and vision impairments that ultimately save the eyesight and improve quality of life for Americans across the age continuum.

Since its inception, the NEI has made significant advancements in such eye diseases as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. Among its most notable achievements, the NEI successfully identified seven major genetic risk factors for age-related macular degeneration and determined through vigorous research that early interventions in common children’s eye disorders such as amblyopia are successful in reversing the disorder and preventing long-term visual impairments.

Prevent Blindness has sought to encourage the NEI to improve our national vision and eye health through research that generates more evidence-based screening protocols and to ensure that treatments are available, safe, and effective. As part of our advocacy to improve vision and eye health on the population level, Prevent Blindness encourages policies that address translational research and are incorporated into a public health strategy, including surveillance and prevention. In its Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Justification to Congress, the NEI announced that it plans to establish an Office of Vision Health and Population Sciences, based on stakeholder input to its strategic plan and recommendations from Prevent Blindness that the vision and eye health research community would benefit from a shift in that role that public health and health data plays in connecting communities to eye care.


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