Improving Lives for Those with Low Vision

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(Family Features) For people living with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), everyday activities such as cooking, driving or reading can be challenging. AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss and legal blindness in people over the age of 65 in the United States, according to research published in the “British Journal of Ophthalmology.”

To help mitigate such difficulties, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation is funding two novel programs derived by nonprofit organizations serving this patient community through its signature STEP (Solutions to Empower Patients) Program™.

Launched in 2017, the program funds projects from U.S.-based patient advocacy organizations to address gaps in care. Previously, the program supported the metastatic breast cancer community, those with sickle cell disease, biomarker testing in oncology and caregivers of people with multiple sclerosis, cancer and certain blood disorders. Since its start, the program has provided more than $1.3 million in funding to 23 organizations.

After hearing from patient advocacy organizations about the increased need for support of those living with low vision, Novartis initiated an ophthalmology-focused iteration.

“To truly serve patients, we must understand their needs,” said Chris Simms, vice president and franchise head of U.S. ophthalmics at Novartis. “We were thrilled to expand the STEP Program to support advocates that work with the low-vision community so that, together, we can deliver on our promise to help patients and those who care for them in the most meaningful ways.”

In late 2020, patient advocacy organizations submitted innovative proposals for programs aimed at addressing everyday challenges faced by AMD patients. These proposals were reviewed by a committee of experts, including an individual with low vision. After careful consideration, the committee awarded the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, Inc. (AMDF) and The SupportSight Foundation with $75,000 each to launch initiatives this year.

Specifically, AMDF’s “Cooking at Home with AMD Vision Loss, Safely, For Your Health and Sight” will use a television show-like format featuring a variety of experts to provide kitchen safety tips and teach community members how to prepare dishes designed for vision health to those at risk for, or with, AMD. The SupportSight Foundation’s “My MacD Life” is using podcasts to inspire the AMD community to better utilize technology, give people easy access to information and facilitate storytelling from community members.

“I see the issues patients face daily and was thrilled to read so many great proposals addressing these problems,” said Debbie Ehlers, MSN, BSN, RN, past president of the American Society for Ophthalmic Registered Nurses and STEP Program review committee member. “I’m confident the initiatives funded will make a significant difference for those impacted by AMD.”

For more information, visit Novartis.us.

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