“Policymakers need to be thinking about how we can work across all of the providers, nurses, and other practitioners — to make sure that every kid in this country has access to vision services.”
Lt. Governor Habib delivered the opening keynote at the 2017 Focus on Eye Care National Summit in Washington D.C., where he spoke to the importance of advocating for vision care, investing in research and development, and working across political and professional divides to expand access to care.
The summit brought together doctors, professors, patient advocates, and public health officials to discuss health policy, blindness prevention, and the future of state and community programs in vision care. Prevent Blindness, the host organization of the 2017 Summit, has been a national leader in promoting eye health and safety since 1908. Their advocacy was critical to the formation of a vision and research prevention program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the establishment of the bipartisan Congressional Vision Caucus.
The Lt. Governor opened his speech with an acknowledgement of the ways in which his own life has been affected by access to healthcare, preventative eye screenings, and the advocacy of community leaders who came before him. As an infant, Lt. Governor Habib was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer that took his vision in one eye. It was during a standard vision screening that his doctors caught signs that the cancer had returned, this time in his other eye. This early detection was crucial in preventing the spread of the cancer, and ultimately saved his life.
During his remarks, the Lt. Governor described the profound impact federal and state policy decisions have had on his life, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, and policies in Washington state like the inclusion of a State School for the Blind and State School for the Deaf into the state constitution. It was at this school that Lt. Governor Habib learned to use a cane, and gained access to assistive technology.
The Lt. Governor concluded with an emphasis on improving productive collaboration between policymakers and practitioners, highlighting his own legislative efforts to work across different public and private sectors to improve access to services for underserved populations. On this, the Lt. Governor said: “Policymakers need to be thinking about how we can work across all of the providers, nurses, and other practitioners — to make sure that every kid in this country has access to vision services.”