Putting the ‘Silent Blinder’ in the Spotlight

 

Photo illustrating the effect of glauoma on vision

 

During the month of January NOSA launched a social media campaign in recognition of Glaucoma Awareness Month to do just as the observance asks – raise awareness. There are many campaigns out there to raise awareness for various important issues – so why focus on glaucoma?

 

Of the estimated 3 million Americans who have glaucoma, the “Silent Blinder,” only half are aware that they have it. This is because the most common forms of glaucoma advance slowly and cause no pain – and don’t cause any noticeable changes to vision until advanced stages. The disease begins with loss of peripheral vision and progresses until all vision is lost if untreated. The damage done by glaucoma is irreversible, but advances in technology have allowed for increasingly early detection of changes in the eye possibly indicative of glaucoma. With early detection and treatment, vision loss from glaucoma can be prevented in the vast majority of cases.

 

As part of our campaign, we demonstrated the effect of Glaucoma on one’s vision by creating a Snapchat geofilter which simulates vision with Glaucoma. NOSA chapters at optometry schools across the country made the geofilter available to their members. Once the geofilter went live on campus, students were able to take pictures with the Snapchat app using the filter. The result of this can be seen in the photograph below.

 

Photo illustrating the effect of vision on glaucoma

 

One of the first deployments of the geofilter occurred at The Ohio State University College of Optometry. Chapter members used the geofilter and also posted screenshots of their photos to Facebook and Instagram. The filter was viewed 563 times on Snapchat alone and the screenshots that were shared received hundreds of views on Facebook and Instagram. This was a reach that extended far beyond the 90 student members of the OSU NOSA chapter. The social media posts were viewed and shared by many friends and family with no other connections to optometry besides, perhaps, their own eye doctor. It was a great start to the campaign.

 

At the start of the campaign we established a national student photo contest to showcase the great photos taken by our members. Three winners were determined weekly based on the number of views and likes their photos received. Each of the winners received a $25 Amazon gift card as a prize. We also added a chapter competition with a prize of $100 for a chapter celebration for the NOSA chapter with the highest number of photo views on Snapchat.

 

The winner of the chapter competition was the NOSA chapter at the University of Houston College of Optometry with a whopping 7,289 views on Snapchat. And because no social media campaign is complete without a hashtag, #NOSAEyesOnGlaucoma accompanied each of these posts. In total, the NOSA Snapchat filter was used to take 344 photos and these photos were viewed over 15,000 times on Snapchat alone. Screenshots shared to Instagram and Facebook also played an important role. Photos shared to Instagram received over 6,000 impressions with thousands more on Facebook (although we were not able to determine the exact number of views due to facebook’s privacy policy). This brings the total number of impressions through this campaign to well over 21,000.

 

Photo of an instagram post made by a NOSA member during the Glaucoma Awareness Initiative

 

 

So what’s next? We’re continuously brainstorming how social media can help us increase public health education. It’s a relatively new frontier, and it’s one that is under-utilized in this day and age where many people get the majority of their news through social media. Having this experience has given us unique insights into in new avenues of increasing public health awareness. We’ve learned that you can achieve great success on social media if you create engaging content that is both fun and insightful.

 

With social media, educational content doesn’t have to be confined to the walls of the exam room – it has the potential, like anything else on social media, to be spread widely and quickly. As vision loss consistently ranks as one of an American’s biggest fears – something that can act as a barrier to education and employment – any way to help educate the public about what they can do to maintain healthy vision is worth working toward.

 

We would like to thank all our members who participated in this wonderful campaign. It is through their collective efforts that this campaign became a huge success. You can view several of the photos that our members have shared online by clicking here.

 

About Liz Moore

Photo of Liz Moore

Liz is a third year NOSA member and current President of the NOSA chapter at The Ohio State University College of Optometry. Prior to enrolling in optometry school, Liz graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences. Her professional interests include ocular disease, geriatrics, low vision, vision rehabilitation and primary care optometry. Liz is also active on the OSU SVOSH executive board and recently traveled to Guatemala to perform comprehensive eye exams. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and traveling with her husband.

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