Prevent Blindness Hosts Congressional Briefing on Eye and Vision Public Health Data and Surveillance

Congressional Briefing: Realizing Equitable Access to Vision and Eye Health Care Through Public Health Data and Surveillance

On November 2, 2021, Prevent Blindness hosted a briefing for Congressional legislators and their staff to provide an update on new analyses around the burden and scope of vision loss and eye disease. This event, “Realizing Equitable Access to Vision and Eye Health Care Through Public Health Data and Surveillance”  was free and open to the public.

The event featured speakers from the NORC at the University of Chicago—whose data collection and analysis has yielded new perspectives of the impacts to vision and eye health equity as well as produced localized, community-level data on vision loss and eye disease in the United States—and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vision Health Initiative, which operates the Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System (VEHSS). The event also featured the perspective of a patient who lives with vision loss resulting from eye disease.

Speaker Bios

Larry Woodard; Vice President of the Wake County Council of the Blind; Patient Advocate and A.S.P.E.C.T. Program Alumnus

Larry Woodard lives in Raleigh, N.C. and has been visually impaired for 15 years, diagnosed with glaucoma, and blind/hard of hearing for the last 8 years. Larry’s vision loss has had a powerful impact on his development and interests and consequently influenced his decision to advocate for similar situations. Larry prioritizes learning and sharing that which may help others who are visually impaired or not. His goal is to work with visually impaired/blind progress with a better quality of life.

Currently, Larry serves as the Vice President of the Wake County Council of the Blind and serves on the Board of Directors of the N.C. affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. He regularly presents on vision loss adjustment to Duke University Medical School students, faculty, and physicians. Larry is also currently a graduate student at North Carolina Central University studying Clinical Psychology with a research interest in adventitious blindness and its psychosocial impact on African-American’s progression and social adjustment. Larry has completed genetics studies in a concurrent graduate certificate program at Stanford University; holds a B.S. degree from Elizabeth City State University and studied for a Master’s degree in Health Services from Central Michigan University. Larry previously worked as the Education and Training Director at the North Carolina Governor’s Institute and as a Senior Regional Trainer with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. While at the Governor’s Institute, Larry created a college mentorship program for students studying behavioral health that was recognized as a best innovative program by the Annapolis Coalition and Harvard University.

Elizabeth Lundeen, PhD, MPH, Vision Health Initiative, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dr. Elizabeth Lundeen is a Senior Scientist in the Vision Health Initiative at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She manages the development of CDC’s Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System and leads epidemiological and health services research on vision health and eye diseases. The Vision Health Initiative is located within CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, and Dr. Lundeen’s research has focused on diabetic retinopathy.

Dr. Lundeen’s interests also include the social determinants of health, health disparities, machine learning, and the use of electronic health record data to conduct population health research. She came to CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer in 2015 and completed her fellowship in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. She began her public health career by spending five years working for the Swiss Red Cross in Kyrgyzstan working with village health committees and implementing a home fortification program to address childhood anemia. Dr. Lundeen received her MPH in health policy from Yale School of Public Health and PhD in nutritional epidemiology from Emory University.

John Wittenborn, NORC at the University of Chicago

John Wittenborn is a research data scientist in the Public Health Analytics program at NORC at the University of Chicago.  His background is in health economics, burden of illness and surveillance with a particular interest in visual health. He is currently serving as the Project Director for the Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System.

David B. Rein, PhD, MPA, NORC at the University of Chicago

Dr. David Rein is the Director of NORC’s Public Health Analytics Program and the Principal Investigator for CDC’s Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System (VEHSS). Dr. Rein is a health services researcher with a specialization in public health policy.  He has worked on projects studying the epidemiology and economics of vision-threatening conditions since 2003.

Sara D. Brown, MPA, Prevent Blindness

Sara Brown is the Director of Government Affairs for Prevent Blindness where she advocates on behalf of patients living with blindness, vision loss, and eye diseases. In her career, Sara has advocated on issues pertaining to Medicare provider payment policy and developed public communications projects promoting the Defense Health Agency’s work on combat-related psychological health and traumatic brain injury.  Sara began her career working with two Members of the U.S. Senate for 6 years in both their state and Washington, DC offices.  A Nebraska native, she earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nebraska-Kearney and her Master’s degree from Walden University in 2011.