In the age of Trumpian attacks on healthcare it’s easy to lose hope that a progressive agenda on health issues can still make ground. But once again people-powered action has achieved success through engaging Americans with creative storytelling and innovative tactics to unlock improved health initiatives. The outcome: better eye care for millions of Americans and another step on our way to ending avoidable blindness.
The See Now campaign is a global movement working to end avoidable blindness and is driven by the injustice that 4 out of 5 blind people shouldn’t be – that’s hundreds of millions of people unable to see their families or support their communities all because of a lack of access to quality eyecare. See Now, an initiative of the Australian-based Fred Hollows Foundation – one of the largest eye health charities in the world – is successfully engaging and mobilizing communities across the globe to raise awareness and mobilize people to take action that unlocks funding for eye health initiatives.
In the US, See Now has been campaigning in partnership with local advocacy outfit Prevent Blindness to petition Congress to increase funding for crucial eye health programs that would ensure access to eyecare for over 15 million Americans. By amplifying real stories of people who have escaped a life of darkness thanks to quality eye care, See Now engaged the public with emotive videos that inspired and informed – correcting the misconception that avoidable blindness is just a developing world issue.
These stories were distributed across social media with a simple ask: join your fellow citizens and call on your lawmaker to unlock better eye care for millions of Americans. The videos mobilized over 80,000 Americans to sign the petition – and Congress listened. Recently legislation was passed that not only rejected the Trump Administration’s steep proposed cuts to public health initiatives, but included widespread increases to agencies under Health and Human Services. These include the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
Within those agencies there are several Prevent Blindness priorities and initiatives which saw increased funding. Specifically, the Vision Health Initiative at the CDC had its funding doubled on the previous year’s budget, and the Glaucoma Project saw a significant boost. The NIH also received a $3 billion spending boost, which includes a $39 million increase to the National Eye Institute.
These funding increases translate into real impact for the millions of Americans who will now have better access to eyecare, and that people-power is a crucial tool in bolstering the advocacy efforts of the eye health sector.