AOA 2024: Making vision possible together for the next generation with Johnson & Johnson

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Mandy Sallach, OD, overviews initiatives being taken on by the company to combat pediatric myopia.

Mandy Sallach, OD, associate director of Professional Relations at Johnson & Johnson, overviews a talk she gave at this year's AOA's Optometry's Meeting on the importance of advocacy and education initiatives to combat myopia in children.

Video transcript

Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Mandy Sallach, OD:

Hi, my name is Mandy Sallach and I'm the associate director of Professional Relations for Johnson & Johnson, North America. And we are here at Optometry's Meeting and I had the honor of presenting to some of our colleagues about how we can make vision possible together for the next generation. And during our presentation, we talked about taking a collective, collaborative, and comprehensive approach to addressing children's vision, from advocacy to education. As we think about children's vision, and the growing myopia epidemic, it's important that all of us do our part and think about how we can address this growing global need to make sure that we take care of our patients from the earliest stages of life.
So as part of the presentation, we talked about how important advocacy is, how we can amplify the voice of optometry and the voice of patients to educate policymakers and legislators about the importance of comprehensive eye care, again, from those earliest stages throughout life, how it's important that patients and doctors have a strong relationship, because that's ultimately what leads to better patient outcomes. And then just generally raising awareness about myopia as a disease state, and not just as a refractive error, letting people know that as optometrists, we can help diagnose and manage and treat ocular health as part of a person's overall wellbeing and overall general health. And then also thinking about myopia as a disease state, updating on what the latest research is and understanding myopia and the risk factors that affect a child so that as optometrists, as the experts, we can take care of our patients in a comprehensive way and start to treat myopia from a myopia management perspective, not just as refractive error.

We have the opportunity to work with prevent blindness, to advocate for a bill that was just recently introduced at the federal level in the house that would help provide access and funding to eye care for children at the state level. And that's something that we feel passionate about, again, collaborating with professional associations with the profession of optometry to help provide better eye education, awareness, better access to care, and just better overall community awareness about the importance of eye health for children. So there's so many ways that as optometrists we can get involved with advocacy, first and foremost being part of our associations like the AOA or your state optometric association, actively been involved, knowing what's going on, and ways you can get plugged in there. But also, it's about what we can do to advocate within our practices and within our exam lane every single day. We have the opportunity to educate our patients, our patients' parents, and our community about what we do as optometry about the importance of eye care and comprehensive eye exam, and about children's vision issues and this growing epidemic of myopia and how as optometrists, we are the primary eye care provider who can take care of them and their families throughout their lifetime.

So I think some of the wins are just that and we've got a lot more awareness. I think people understand that eye care is an integral part of eye health as well as overall health. We want to keep that momentum going. Some of the challenges are just continuing to get the word out there, getting more of our own colleagues engaged and involved in these efforts, and continuing to educate the public. At Johnson & Johnson, we believe in supporting eye health, again, across the patient's lifetime and across that journey from the pediatric eye to the adult eye to the mature eye. And one of the ways that we collaborate with the profession is also by supporting initiatives such as infancy. J&J has been a supportive infancy with the AOA Optometry Cares Foundation for 19 years now, all the way since the beginning. And we also work with the Lions Club to support an initiative called Sight for Kids that helps bring access to eye care to kids around the world, including here in the United States. Again, we do these things because it's so important to support children's vision and eye health for our patients from those earliest ages, and also educating the parents and the public and our communities about the importance of eyecare.

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