SEPTEMBER 27, 2023

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Welcome to the Brand-New Prevent Blindness Advocacy and ASPECT Patient Engagement Program Newsletter!

Prevent Blindness is the nation’s leading patient advocacy organization committed to protecting and expanding access to sight-saving care for patients of all ages who live with a multitude of diseases, conditions, and circumstances that may affect their eye health or impair vision.

We are excited to debut this new, bi-monthly newsletter which will:

  • Highlight our ongoing work in Washington, DC to promote policies that prevent blindness and preserve sight, and
  • Provide opportunities to get involved such as reaching out to your Members of Congress through our brand-new tool: the Eyes on Capitol Hill Legislative Action Center.
  • Share updates about the newly-created ASPECT program and how the trainees are using their advocacy skills in their communities. 

This is a bi-monthly newsletter. The next edition will be sent in November.

Get Involved: Tell Congress to Pass Legislation for FY2024 and Avoid a Shutdown

AI generated photo depicting an Eyes on Capitol Hill advocate in Washington, D.C.

Take action at the Eyes on Capitol Hill Legislative Action Center on the Prevent Blindness advocacy webpage and tell Congress to pass funding for essential health programs in FY 2024.

The end of September is a critical deadline in Washington, DC. It is the end of the current fiscal year, and a new fiscal year starts on October 1. This means that Congress must make all decisions on appropriations legislation by September 30 or risk a federal government shutdown—meaning, all agencies and programs will have to cease operations without funding for the incoming fiscal year. Once again, Congress may likely miss this important deadline to fund public health programs that can help prevent blindness and preserve sight. We need to tell Congress that a government shutdown will harm Americans across the country and put public health at risk NOW.

Prevent Blindness has advocated Congress to fund two essential vision and eye health programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: the Vision and Eye Health program and Glaucoma Detection program. While the House has not released any information about how these programs would be funded, the Senate has proposed to keep the programs funded at $2.5 million and $4 million (respectively) in FY 2024. While there are no changes from the FY2023 funding level for both programs and, as you may recall if you participated in Eyes on Capitol Hill in 2023, Prevent Blindness has asked for Congress to fund Vision and Eye Health at $5 million in FY 2024, these proposed funding levels during this year’s incredibly difficult budget climate is important to continue this funding and ensure there are no cuts made to these programs.

That is why we need you to reach out to your Member of Congress this week and urge them to finish their work and keep the government from shutting down, which is always a major disruption to public health programs. 

Take Action!

Allow Us to Introduce Ourselves!

Sara D. Brown, MPA is the Director of Government Affairs at Prevent Blindness

Sara D. Brown, MPA is the Director of Government Affairs at Prevent Blindness, which is a role that she has held since April 2017. Previously, Sara managed communications projects at a public affairs firm to promote the Defense Health Agency’s work on combat-related psychological health and traumatic brain injury. 

Sara has also lobbied Congress and the Administration on the legislative and regulatory interests of medical group practice managers as an Associate Director, Government Affairs with the Medical Group Management Association. She began her career in government and public policy working with two United States Senators for 6 years in both their state and Washington, DC offices. A Nebraska native, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science from the University of Nebraska-Kearney and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Walden University. Sara is an avid paddleboarder and a self-trained distance runner, having completed over 15 marathons. 

Julie Grutzmacher, MSW, MPH is the Director of Patient Advocacy and Population Health Initiatives at Prevent Blindness

Julie Grutzmacher, MSW, MPH is the Director of Patient Advocacy and Population Health Initiatives at Prevent Blindness. Julie holds a dual master’s degree in social work and public Health and has more than twenty years’ experience advocating for equitable access to and delivery of healthcare services.

Her work has led her to academic medical facilities, federally qualified health centers, academia, and non-profit organizations, servicing communities impacted by HIV/AIDS, premature and low birth weight babies, and high-risk pregnancies. She has experience building, implementing, and evaluating educational training programs from scratch- first in academia with medical residents and then at Prevent Blindness with the ASPECT program for those who are visually impaired and blind and their allies.  

What is the Prevent Blindness ASPECT Patient Engagement Program?

ASPECT stands for Advocacy, Support, Perspective, Empowerment, Communication, and Training. It is Prevent Blindness’ signature program that aims to equip individuals who live with vision loss and blindness, as well as their allies (i.e., parents or guardians, care partners, nonprofit representatives, multidisciplinary clinicians, eye care providers, and researchers) with knowledge, skills, and confidence to become advocates for vision and eye health as individual level, state or local level, and at federal/legislative level. Prevent Blindness started this program in the fall of 2020, and we are thrilled to have had over 128 patient advocates complete the program so far. 

Find out More

We are on our sixth cohort with over 41 participants from over 25 states. Cohort 6 includes: 

  • 30 people who have sight loss
  • 2 optometrists, 1 optometry student, 1 ophthalmology research fellow
  • 6 researchers
  • 3 parents/caregivers
  • 4 public health professionals
  • 3 mental health providers

YouTube video thumbnail of a man looking out the window on a rainy day
Watch the ASPECT Video

Stay Connected!

We’re currently revising the Community Directory, which includes the bios and contact information of ASPECT alumni. We hope you’ll use this document to connect with one another. Stay tuned for an email with the revised document most likely in October. 


Connect with ASPECT alumni on our Facebook Group

Join the ASPECT Facebook Group

To join, click the link above, and request to join the group. Membership in the group is optional. If you have any issues locating the Facebook group and requesting to join, please email Penny at

Upcoming Events

Prevent Blindness Encourages Advocates to Love Your Eyes at Work this World Sight Day

Love Your Eyes at Work World Sight Day logo and Prevent Blindness logo

To kick off recognition of World Sight Day 2023, Prevent Blindness hosted a reception for partners within the vision and eye health community. The theme of World Sight Day 2023 is “Love Your Eyes at Work,” with a special focus on how employers, insurers, and policymakers can better examine vision and eye heath insurance policies and coverage for employees and workers. Participants heard from Prevent Blindness President and CEO Jeff Todd, CEO for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, patient advocate and public policy specialist for the National Industries of the Blind Vivian Fridas, and Congressman Gus Bilirakis who is also the Chair of the Congressional Vision Caucus

To read more about this event and a patient's story about vision and the workplace, check out our Advocacy News.

YouTube thumbnail, Representative Gus Bilirakis World Sight Day remarks

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Congressional Vision Caucus Chair, Remarks on Eye and Vision Advocacy for 2023 World Sight Day

Watch the Video

Save the Date for the Virtual Eyes on Capitol Hill 2024 

Prevent Blindness is excited to announce that dates that the annual Eyes on Capitol Hill legislative advocacy day will be held – Tuesday, March 5 and Wednesday, March 6. The event will once again be held in a 2-day virtual format during which time advocates will join with other advocates all over the country to meet with their Members of Congress to discuss policies that prevent blindness and preserve sight. We welcomed over 70 advocates at the 2023 event—35 of which had never participated in Eyes on Capitol Hill before!—and we certainly hope that many of you will be interested in attending once again or for the first time in 2024. Registration will open in October 2023, and will close at the end of December 2023. All event information, including the registration form, will be available on the Eyes on Capitol Hill event page.

In the meantime, Prevent Blindness has several advocacy-based resources and content to help you learn about how to advocate, read through talking points and practice them, and know what to expect when you meet with legislators. Visit our Advocacy 101 webpage to discover these helpful resources!

If you have any questions, please email  

Miss us already? There's More You Can Do to Connect and Stay Informed.

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