National Eye Health Week (NEHW) marks its sixth year this month, with organisers expecting the most successful awareness week to date.
Chair of the campaign, optometrist David Cartwright, told OT: "We have seen a record number of practices and health organisations sign up to take part in NEHW this year."
The annual campaign will be held on September 21–27, with changing daily health messages scheduled for each day of the week. The themes will aim to highlight a range of issues, including the links between eye health and smoking, as well as diet and nutrition.
As chair of the initiative for the second consecutive year, Mr Cartwright is passionate about the role that the week plays in encouraging members of the public to have an awareness of the importance of eye health and how a person’s lifestyle habits can affect their vision.
Discussing the purpose of the week, Mr Cartwright said: “I hope it brings the whole industry together to raise the profile of eye health, which is essentially what everyone wants to achieve.”
The optometrist pointed out that while the week and the messages shared are ultimately for the public’s benefit, “getting involved also absolutely helps raise a practice’s profile in its local community and is therefore good for business too.”
The initiative has once again attracted support from big names, with Vision Express, Boots Opticians and Lloyds Pharmacy supporting this year's awareness week.
Sponsored by Vision Express, the Vision Van will be touring the UK during the week, making stops in towns and cities which are considered ‘hot spots’ for poor eye health.
“The Vision Van is really important as it not only provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the eye health message, but also for people to be seen there and then,” Mr Cartwright said.
The chair also confirmed that Devon local optical committee will feature in a live broadcast on health channel Hiblio, while the DVLA will host an eye health awareness raising event at its head offices.
Eye health supplements will once again be published in national newspapers The Times and the Guardian on September 20 and 21 respectively, with consumer magazine Vista also returning.
Vista was introduced last year to provide practices with a reception area magazine with longevity that could be used continually to highlight eye health messages with patients throughout the year.
"There are some very interesting features in this year's Vista, and we have managed to keep advertising to a minimum so it doesn’t detract from the importance of the messages,” added Mr Cartwright.
Last year’s NEHW was its most successful to date, with more than 560 pieces of press coverage generated before the week had ended. National media coverage included Dr Hilary Jones promoting the importance of regular sight tests on ITV breakfast television, and the College of Optometrists’ clinical adviser, Dr Susan Blakeney, appearing on This Morning.
Almost 2,000 supporters signed up and took part in the initiative in 2014, while a OnePoll survey performed by organisers in October last year revealed that 66% of UK adults said they planned to take better care of their eyes following NEHW 2014.
Sharing his desire to expand on the information-gathering exercise for 2015, the optometrist revealed that organisers of the initiative will commission pre- and post-evaluations of public opinion. “This will help us build some concrete evidence around how the week does actually change people’s behaviours,” explained Mr Cartwright. “It will allow us to demonstrate the week’s worth to the industry so we can attract more investors and grow the week even more.”
Returning to this year’s initiative, Mr Cartwright emphasised that it is certainly not too late for practices to sign up and get involved with NEHW 2015. “We encourage people to continue to register their interest to receive a resource pack, and there is lots of information and ideas freely available to anyone wanting to plan an event on our website.”
For more information and to sign up, visit www.visionmatters.org.uk