Canadian Association of Optometrists
OTTAWA – As an example of why she was named a Vision Champion for 2021 by the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO), Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes delivered a motion in Parliament on May 27, calling for a national strategy for action on eye health and vision care. She noted those most at risk are children, seniors and Indigenous peoples.
MP Hughes worked with CAO to develop the motion which she feels all MPs would be inclined to support given its non-partisan content. “With vision threatening conditions projected to increase by as much as 29 percent over the next decade, it’s time for Parliament to help shape a comprehensive strategy that can put a dent in that trajectory.” That is the message she is sharing with parliamentarians as she encouraged them to get behind her motion.
“This is a proposal that would help ensure fewer individuals fall through the cracks,” said MP Hughes. “It acknowledges the need for leadership on the issue without diminishing the role of provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments.”
MP Hughes notes that the strategy offers a framework that can help deliver results for Canadians living with vision problems, many of which can be undiagnosed or diagnosed improperly as behaviour or neural conditions such as ADHD in children.
“There are too many gaps and children, especially, are experiencing different levels of care. Even something as simple as vision testing isn’t guaranteed for all children, and that alone can leave some undiagnosed and struggling to keep up in school.”
“The CAO presents three annual awards, one of which is available to members the public,” said Rhona Lahey, director of communications for CAO, on Thursday of last week. “The Vision Champion Award honours individuals or agencies that have demonstrated above and beyond service and commitment to contribute to improvements in eye health and vision care.”
Nominees must be Canadians who are members of the public and who have performed a significant public service for the visual welfare of others; politicians who have promoted legislation or regulation in either federal, provincial or municipal jurisdictions that promotes better eye care and vision health for Canadians; educational institutions, organizations and social community groups that promote eye health, education and safety; or research projects that focus on public eye health, education and eye safety.
“Anyone can nominate a person for the award, and our awards committee meets annually and makes a determination on the award winners,” said Ms. Lahey. “Ms. Hughes was nominated by an individual who cited her support for vision health and vision care in the House of Commons, having tabled petitions and the national vision care strategy in her role as the assistant deputy speaker. She also hosts events on the Hill for MPs and senators that demonstrates eye health care and the need for optimal vision health, especially for children. Almost one in four children has a vision problem that is interfering with their education that, if left untreated, can lead to difficulty reading and lead to behaviour problems that can be confused with other conditions such as ADHD, and how there is a need for a national strategy to support all those with eye health barriers.”
MP Hughes told The Expositor about the strategy. “I had tabled a similar motion during the last Parliament. We’ve been working closely with CAO, and they have been exceptionally good at getting people to sign our petitions.”
“Seventy five percent of vision loss can be prevented,” continued MP Hughes. “Vision barriers also have an effect at the end of the day on the economy and how someone with vision care barriers maintain their work. Maybe they have more missed hours or their work productivity is not as good as it should be.”
“With the number of Canadians dealing with vision-threatening eye conditions expected to grow by over 29 percent over the next decade, we are facing a challenge best prepared for in advance. The CAS has identified a path to limit the worst outcomes under the umbrella of a national strategy for action on eye health and vision care, which I was honoured to table as a motion in Parliament. It acknowledges the need for a multi-stakeholder response and calls for the establishment of an office for vision health at the Public Health Agency of Canada to coordinate efforts by working with provinces and territories on strategies for eye health, vision care and the full integration of post-vision loss rehabilitation therapy into the health care continuum,” said MP Hughes. “This would lead to fewer individuals falling through the cracks, while ensuring the necessities of care are readily available for those in need, which I’m certain most Canadians will support.”