Emeritus Professor of Optometry and Public Health Named to IOM Committee

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Former IU vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs and professor emeritus of optometry and public health Edwin C. Marshall has been named to the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Public Health Approaches to Reduce Vision Impairment and Promote Eye Health. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public. 

Marshall is one of three optometrists named to the fifteen-member committee that was selected to reflect a wide range of expertise across all sectors of the scientific and technical community and from a variety of fields. The committee will convene for its first meeting later this month to launch the IOM’s consensus study to examine the core principles and public health strategies to reduce visual impairment and promote eye health in the United States. The study will describe limitations and opportunities to improve vision and eye health surveillance; reduce vision and eye health disparities; promote evidence-based strategies to improve knowledge, access and utilization to eye care; identify comorbid conditions and characterize their impact; and, promote health for people with vision impairment. The study will also examine the potential for public and private collaborations at the community, state, and national levels to elevate vision and eye health as a public health issue.

The study will focus on the following topics:

  • Public health burden of eye disease and vision loss
  • Prevention and care of eye disease and impaired vision
  • Evidence-based health promotion interventions for vision loss
  • Collaborative strategies to promote vision and eye health as a public health priority

Specifically, the committee will examine and make recommendations on the following:

(1) Characterizing the Public Health Burden. Describe and characterize the public health significance of eye disease (e.g., glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and cataract) and vision loss, and the relationship between vision loss and quality of life, health disparities, and comorbid conditions. Identify opportunities to improve surveillance, monitoring, and data integration strategies and to define metrics to support a more accurate assessment of the public health burden of eye diseases and vision loss.

(2) Prevention and Care. Explore innovative models of care, innovative technologies, their application to eye disease/ vision impairment detection and management, as well as barriers to their development and use. Examine and explore current and future areas of research on public health interventions that target prevention; access to, and utilization of, vision and eye care; and improved patient outcomes.

(3) Evidence-Based Health Promotion Interventions. Identify strategies to develop, test, and encourage the implementation of health promotion interventions that are evidence based for people with vision impairment.

(4) Eye Health and Vision Loss as a Public Health Priority. Categorize and discuss the possible short- and long-term collaborative strategies to promote vision and eye health as a public health priority, including: (a) the role of public-private partnerships (e.g., improving public awareness; improving vision and eye care through federal, state, and community-based partnerships, and enhancing professional education); (b) the role of federal government and state and local communities in integrating vision and eye health interventions into existing public health programs (including systems and policy changes that support vision and eye health) that are both implementable and sustainable; and (c) engagement of key national partners to form collaborations for research, service delivery, outreach, and community-based studies to successfully improve access and quality to vision and eye care.

Marshall states the issues under study are among those that have helped focus his professional career. He has been passionately committed to exploring and implementing innovative approaches to reducing vision impairment and promoting eye health among all populations, but particularly among the most vulnerable – the underserved and racial and ethnic minorities. One of his first tasks after graduating from the IU School of Optometry was to co-found and direct the school’s first off-campus clinic dedicated to serving the vision and eye care needs of the community’s underserved and low-income populations. It was during that experience that he realized the tremendous burden that the unmet need for vision and eye care services places on large segments of our population. Following a U.S. Public Health Service Primary Care Policy Fellowship he was appointed as the founding chair of the Indiana Minority Health Advisory Committee that produced the data-driven Healthy Indiana Minority Health Plan to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. As an advisor to the legislatively mandated Interagency State Council on Black and Minority Health, he helps set the agenda for the annual report to the legislature on factors that affect the health of minority populations in Indiana.

As chair of the National Commission on Vision and Health, Marshall helped orchestrate efforts to improve the nation’s vision health by collaborating with science and health policy experts to ensure informed analysis and policy recommendations to prevent blindness, improve visual function, and eliminate vision health disparities. He also worked with the Governor’s Advisory Panel on the Indiana Children’s Health Insurance Program to help shape the enabling legislation for expanding access to vision and eye health services for low-income children in Indiana. Since 2010 he has been a spokesperson for the National Eye Institute’s National Eye Health Education Program on issues related to vision and eye health awareness and access to care among vulnerable populations, particularly during glaucoma, diabetes, and minority health theme months.

Established in 1970, the Institute of Medicine is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which was chartered under President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Nearly 150 years later, the National Academy of Sciences has expanded into what is collectively known as the National Academies, which comprises the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Research Council, and the IOM. The aim of the IOM is to help those in government and the private sector make informed health decisions by providing evidence upon which they can rely. Each year, more than 2,000 individuals volunteer their time, knowledge, and expertise to advance the nation’s health through the work of the IOM. Many of the studies that the IOM undertakes begin as specific mandates from Congress; still others are requested by federal agencies and independent organizations. The IOM also convenes a series of forums, roundtables, and standing committees, as well as other activities, to facilitate discussion, discovery, and critical, cross-disciplinary thinking.