The National Optometric Association (NOA) was founded in 1969 in Richmond, Virginia, as a not-for-profit corporation The NOA is comprised primarily of minority optometrists from throughout the United States. Activities are administered through a board of directors and regional officers.
The recruitment of minority students into the schools and colleges of optometry and their placement into appropriate practice settings upon graduation are two priorities of the NOA. Coincident with these priorities is the underlying purpose of the NOA -- advancing the visual health of minority populations through the delivery of effective and efficient eye and vision care services to the minority community.
The NOA directed much of its early activity to increasing the number of minority optometrists available to deliver eye and vision care services to urban and minority communities. The NOA was assisted through federal grant support and through the establishment of working relationships with the schools and colleges of optometry. As the number of minority students, minority graduates and practicing minority optometrists increased, the NOA started to direct more of its attention toward ways to enhance the delivery, effectiveness and efficiency of eye and vision care services in communities with little or no eye care presence.
A continuing priority of the NOA is the promotion of greater cultural diversity within the schools and colleges of optometry. However, recent NOA efforts have focused on the Association's desire to better educate those populations who are at higher risk of developing sight-threatening conditions like glaucoma and diabetic eye disease -- specifically urban, rural and minority populations with poor access to eye health care – about the importance of early detection and timely treatment.
Glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and hypertensive retinopathy are disease areas of primary emphasis for the NOA. Glaucoma is more frequent, more progressive, occurs at an earlier age and produces more severe consequences in African Americans than in any other racial or ethnic group. Regular eye examinations can help prevent the loss of vision from undetected and unmanaged glaucoma. Similarly, the risk of vision loss from the complications of diabetes, such as diabetic retinopathy and cataract, can be reduced through early detection, treatment and management. In collaboration with other organizations, the NOA has responsibility for guiding and promoting educational and clinical activities toward the goal of reducing death and disability related to high blood pressure, including related hypertensive eye disease. The NOA’s "Three Silent Killers" program emphasizes the importance of prevention and timely care in the prevention of glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and high blood pressure – diseases that disproportionately strike minority populations with the potential of robbing them of their sight and quality of life.
The National Optometric Association will further its mission by continuing to challenge its members to higher levels of activity in community education, patient awareness, disease prevention, health promotion and clinical care.
NOA members are well integrated into the fabric of the optometric profession. They represent the profession as ambassadors at-large through their various professional and civic endeavors. NOA members practice in various types of clinical settings; they teach and conduct research in educational institutions; they serve on committees and councils of professional, community and governmental organizations and agencies; and they serve as valuable and identifiable role models in their respective communities.
To help advance its mission, the NOA has developed a number of strategic alliances with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and accessibility of eye care:
American Diabetes Association (ADA)
American Optometric Association (AOA)
American Public Health Association (APHA)
Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO)
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Health Brain Trust
National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP)
National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP)
The NOA's involvement in the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) of the National Eye Institute helps demonstrate the ability and effectiveness of minority optometry as a natural intervener in the course of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease, particularly in minority populations.