Section 2: From the Field - Building Partnerships to Enhance Vision and Eye Health
The New York State Vision Health Integration and Preservation Programexternal icon is a collaboration between the New York State Department of Health and Prevent Blindness Tri-State. It integrated strategies designed to preserve vision health into existing programs and functions in the state health department as a way to promote public health strategies among community organizations and vision partners.
Building partnerships is not always easy, and Chris Maylahn of the New York State Department of Health knows this firsthand. Chris knew he would need partners to qualify for a grant from CDC and Prevent Blindness to integrate vision and eye health with other state public health programs.
Chris began by collecting epidemiologic information, convening vision and eye health workgroups, and reaching out to potential partners throughout New York to build a sustainable team of multidisciplinary leaders. With the help of his partners, Chris was able to get funding to integrate vision and eye health interventions into existing chronic disease programs, such as those for diabetes. He attributes his success to his strong team of partners. Chris offered the following suggestions to others trying to integrate vision and eye health interventions into their public health programs:
- Identify all public health programs that have a connection to vision and eye health. Examples include tobacco, diabetes, injury, and maternal and child health programs.
- Consider partnering with nonprofits that have an interest in vision and eye health and might be able to contribute resources to your intervention. Examples include Prevent Blindness, EyeCare America, Optometry Cares, and the American Foundation for the Blind.
- Seek partnerships with organizations that have a proven track record of successfully developing and sustaining effective partnerships with your community or target population.
- Identify a champion who can advocate for your project. The champion should be passionate about the problem and be willing to advocate for your project.
About the Expert in the Field
Chris Maylahn, MPH is a Program Research Specialist with the New York State Department of Health. He was a founding member of the department’s Division of Chronic Disease Prevention.
- Ohio’s Aging Eye Public Private Partnershipexternal icon is an initiative supported by the Ohio Department of Aging. It exists to develop a strategic plan of action to address issues related to vision care public policy, vision care services, vision education, and vision research that affect the quality of life of Ohio seniors.
- The Alabama Lions Sight Conservation Associationexternal icon has partnered with the Alabama Department of Public Health to use a mobile van to provide comprehensive eye exams, referrals, and follow-up services to residents of Alabama’s most rural and poorest counties.
- Vision To Learnexternal icon was launched in 2016 as a partnership between the Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore City Health Department, and Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University. This citywide initiative provides vision screenings and free eyeglasses for students in prekindergarten through eighth grade in all 50 Baltimore City public schools.