Our day in Washington!
A few weeks ago, The Children’s Eye Foundation traveled to Washington, D.C. for the 2018 annual meeting of AAPOS, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. It’s always a great meeting, we get to catch up with some of our longest supporters and connect with other companies and organizations working to support the field of pediatric ophthalmology.
But this year, because we were in our nation’s capital, there was a chance to use this unique opportunity to meet with lawmakers and share with them how they can use their position to help support children’s health causes, especially children’s vision. AAPOS organized an advocacy day where pediatric ophthalmologists from all over the country met with their own representatives and senators. On one single day, much of Congress got to hear about this very important topic.
As a parent who, in my day job, tries to help spread the word of children’s vision issues, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tag along. I realized very quickly what an important role I could play in sharing stories from my own experience to help put things into context. And I’m incredibly grateful that I could participate.
Being from Washington State, I spent the day with two pediatric ophthalmologists who practice in the greater Seattle area, as well as a high school student who has grown up with a pediatric ophthalmologist for a dad and, full disclosure, a mom who works for CEF. We were an invincible team, set to change the world for kids with vision problems, one meeting at a time! In all seriousness, it was a really special experience. We were able to share stories and articulate to our members of congress what an important issue children’s vision is, and why we need them to support our work.
One of the things we talked about was how important continued funding is for the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and NEI (National Eye Institute) Uncorrected vision problems can impair childhood development, affect learning and even lead to permanent vision loss. But one example of the importance of research funding is the NEI-funded Vision in Preschoolers study. This study looked at the effectiveness of commonly used vision screening tests in preschoolers, and conducted a long term follow up of those kids. It showed that screening and treating eye issues early had a big impact in terms of children’s literacy and on the ability to detect eye problems when they were still treatable.
And wouldn’t you know, shortly after our meetings, congress passed a new spending bill that boosted funding for the NIH! I’m sure it was because we were so persuasive! Ha!
After spending almost 7 years now with my own daughter who was born with some vision conditions, I’m incredibly thankful I had the opportunity to share my experience with those who run our country and have to make the big decisions. But the other thing I realized is how important it is for them to hear about the effect this has on kids, and why it’s necessary to care about and prioritize this issue. Even if you can’t travel to DC to meet with your legislators, you can call them, or email them! Everyone we met with was genuinely interested in getting to know their constituents and hearing from each of us about what we care about. You CAN make a difference.